If you are in the process of estate planning, you are probably concerned about probate. According to U.S. News & World Report, the probate court is intimidating for many people, as most believe it entails complex legal entanglements that are impossible to navigate.
However, this is not the case for every estate. By approaching probate the right way, you can sidestep legal issues and ensure your heirs receive your assets in a timely manner.
The truth is, all estates end up in probate court, regardless of whether you have a plan in place. If you have a legally binding and valid will and have named an executor, that person is responsible for distributing your assets to the heirs you named, as well as paying off the remaining debt.
Estates with valid wills in place typically progress through probate court at a much faster pace. If you do not have a will, the court will decide how to divide your estate, and this can take months or even years depending on the size of your estate.
In the event you want to avoid probate outright, establishing a revocable trust is the best way to go. Placing your assets into a trust means they pass directly to your heirs upon your death. This avoids probate, but it also allows you to establish rules for when heirs receive assets, such as at a certain age or after graduating from college.
If your heirs find fault with the terms of your will or believe it was fraudulently created, they can choose to contest it in court. That is why some wills contain no-contest clauses, which state that any heir who disputes the terms of the will does not receive their inheritance. However, no-contest clauses are not completely failproof, as the court might still agree with the statements of your family.
In this case, your best option is to discuss the terms of your will with your heirs while you are still alive. By explaining your decisions and thinking process, you may head off any conflict and prevent legal disputes from occurring.