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What is Probate Court and How to Avoid it?

We all know that death will come to us all. It is just a fact of life that we don’t live forever, even though we at times think we are invincible. So, when someone we love and care about passes away it is a shock to our whole life. We pause to reflect, grieve and surround ourselves with family and friends. The hope is that nothing comes in between this process to distract us from healing from our loss. However, far too often we are faced with serious situations to deal with in the midst of loss. We have to plan a memorial service, contact family members, and handle closing the estate. The last thing on most people’s minds during the grieving process is probate court, but unfortunately too many people have to familiarize themselves with the probate process which causes stress and heartache in an already stressful process.  

Probate court is the legal framework that allows the court system to wrap up and bring closure to the individual’s affairs. This process can include a variety of subjects, but it tends to focus on financial matters. The courts, during this process will go through all of the assets of the deceased and make sure they are transferred to the right person. This process of settling a household can go smoothly if the person has a will outlining their wishes, or it can be traumatic to deal with due to difficult decisions to make after suffering a loss of a loved one.

The probate process will be a drawn out legal proceeding and depending on how the estate was set up there could be some exposure of family privacy. Whatever matters your family wishes to remain in the family will not stay there. Your family matters will be exposed for the court to hear and the lawyers to dispute over. You need to be prepared for a total lack of privacy during these proceedings.

Going through with probate court can be costly to all of the parties involved. It is a legal process and will move slowly which will increase the total legal fees that you will incur. According to the American Bar Association probate fees can consume between 6% and 10% of a person’s estate. This rate is determined without any liens or other fees that the estate will be forced to pay.

The probate process is a legal one, and as such has a tradition of taking many months to conclude. If there is a valid will with little to no disputing then it may take a few months to conclude the estate. However, if there is no will and there are disputes among family about how the estate should be divided then it may extend to a year or longer in length.

The best way to avoid probate court is to have a strong will set up in advance so that all of your personal affairs are in order. If you need to establish a trust, or need to know what types of assets are not at risk during a probate proceeding than contact Andrews & Arbenz for your Tacoma estate planning needs. We would love to help you establish a strong and viable last will and testament to help you and your family.