Magazine article USA TODAY

Is Probate Really Worth Avoiding?

Magazine article USA TODAY

Is Probate Really Worth Avoiding?

Article excerpt

The very utterance of the word "probate" evokes images of a slow, costly court process and, in the case of large, controversial estates, headlines and appearances on "Court TV." Best-selling books, seminars, and articles have been devoted to ways to avoid it, especially through the use of living trusts. Yet, is probate all that bad for most families? Are the cures sometimes worse than the disease?

Probate is the legal procedure for validating a will. Once determined, the property owned by the person who died is distributed to the heirs according to the provisions of the will. (If the will is found invalid or there is none, the court will determine the heirs. The institute of Certified Financial Planners offers a quick guide to deciding whether or not it is worthwhile to avoid probate.

Consider going through probate if:

* Most of your assets avoid probate. A large portion of your estate may not even fall under the control of your will. Property that does not pass through probate includes items owned jointly with right of survivorship (such as bank accounts, home, cars) or has a named beneficiary such as life insurance death or retirement plan benefits, individual retirement accounts, and annuities.

* You have a small, simple estate. it most likely will zip through probate, or at least go through it as f as through a trust that avoids probate.

* Creditors aren't a problem. Creditors usually must file claims against a probated estate within six months. …

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