If you have begun to take steps to attend to the important task of estate planning, you have very likely already come across the concept of "avoiding probate". This has become a popular idea, and most people who have experienced the death of a loved one and the time-consuming probate process will agree that avoiding it makes good sense. In all likelihood however, probate will be a necessary part of your loved one's life after there is a death in the family. That doesn't mean that the aspects of probate that are perceived to be negative cannot be minimized, so read to learn more about avoiding probate.
No matter how much estate planning you do and how skilled your financial advice, the will still takes a place of honor among your estate instruments. The plain truth is that if a will exists, it must be probated. In some states, the issue of a whether or not there is a will is irrelevant: all estates must go through the probate process. So, as you can see, probate is probably unavoidable. This may bring you to question probate's purpose when it comes to dealing with the affairs of a deceased person.
Debt and Property
When most people consider the word "estate", they may just assume that is means the home, cars, bank accounts and other items of property belonging to a deceased person. That, however, is only half of the equation that makes up most estates. Most people owe at least some money to someone when they pass away, and probate provides the legal means of dealing with that debt.
In fact, one of the first tasks for your estate attorney will be to place a notice in a local newspaper informing any interested creditors to come forward to place claims on the estate. This means that any assets of the estate could be liquidated (sold) if need be to pay off debts, particularly tax debts. Furthermore, the executor (or personal representative) is responsible for ensuring that certain debts are paid during the probate period. Without probate, creditors would have no means to seek compensation for loans, credit cards, mortgages, tax debts, property taxes, condo and storage fees and more.
The key to simplifying life for your loved ones after your death is to make arrangements for all or most of your property to be kept out of probate. This means using a revocable trust, payable on death designations and special deeds that allow property to pass to a beneficiary immediately after the death.
To learn more, speak to an estate attorney.