Why Might You Need Probate Court?
Before some estates can be distributed to heirs, a probate court judge must review the will, oversee the executor, and approve the final estate distribution. The executor gathers all estate assets, notifies and pays creditors, and completes the distribution of assets to the heirs.
Not all estates must go through probate court. Very small estates, including those that do not include real estate, may be exempt from probate requirements. In addition, estates that pass directly into trusts or other estate planning structures besides wills may not have to go through probate.
Moreover, any disputes regarding the contents of wills are resolved by probate courts. They handle trustee and beneficiary disputes too.
The Cost of Probate Court
Distributing an estate through the probate court process costs a lot of money. The estate will owe fees based a percentage of its total value, and the fees grow if the estate is larger. These fees pay the executor for his or her services and also cover legal fees for the executor’s attorney. Fees can cost the estate thousands of dollars – money which will not go to the heirs.
In addition, the estate must pay the costs associated with probate court filings. Many documents must be filed with the court, and each one comes with a filing fee.
The Time Probate Court Takes
It takes quite some time for an estate to go through probate. With delays in court scheduling due to busy dockets, the first court date might not be scheduled for several weeks or months after the family first makes a court filing. There are mandatory time period for the executor to complete certain tasks, but creditors also must have a notice period during which to make claims against the estate. Also, any disputes about the will or distribution of the estate could delay the process. All in all, probate could take nearly a year, or even more if there is a dispute.
As a result, structuring your estate to keep as many assets out of probate as possible could benefit your heirs and executor in the long run. With the help of an estate planning attorney, you can move assets into a trust or use other methods to avoid these downsides of probate court.
Planning your estate? Look to Janet Brewer, Esq. for thorough and thoughtful estate planning advice. Janet’s more than 20 years of legal experience will give you confidence and peace of mind. To schedule a “Get Acquainted” meeting, visit Janet's website or call her office at (650) 469-8206.