Probate is the legal process of settling individuals’ estates after their passing.
However, many people have misconceptions about probate, leading to unnecessary concerns and confusion.
A will avoids probate
Fewer than half of U.S. adults (46%) have a will, but many people believe a will helps them avoid probate. Although a will serves as a guide for the distribution of assets, it still requires court validation through the probate process. Proper estate planning, such as establishing trusts or joint ownership, can help streamline the transfer of assets outside of probate.
Probate is always lengthy
Contrary to popular belief, probate duration varies depending on the complexity of the estate and local regulations. Simple estates with clear instructions can go through the process relatively swiftly. However, complex cases may take more time to resolve.
Probate is costly
While probate has associated costs, they are not as exorbitant as some may think. Fees cover court expenses, executor compensation and legal proceedings. However, these costs are often a small percentage of the total estate value.
Everything goes to the state
Some individuals fear that the state will seize their loved one’s assets during probate. In truth, only assets without designated beneficiaries or joint ownership undergo probate. Assets such as life insurance policies or retirement accounts with named beneficiaries bypass the probate process altogether. Understanding the distinction between probate and non-probate assets is important for accurate estate planning.
Dispelling these common misconceptions about probate can empower individuals to approach estate planning with a clearer understanding. This helps individuals navigate this process with greater confidence and peace of mind.