When you hear people talk about their estate plan, they often mention wanting to avoid probate. Often, they go to great lengths to prevent this process, making you wonder if you should take the same approach.
In reality, probate is not something to fear. While there are people who struggle through probate more than others, it often is a straightforward process that you can make simpler with a thorough estate plan.
Here’s what you can do to avoid some common probate problems and help the process go smoothly.
Title and Contract supersede the Probate Process
Updating how the assets you own are titled and your beneficiary designations is important to ensure that your estate is administered the way you intended. Often, people assume if their will states who gets what, that is the end of the story. That is not the reality. First, assets will pass to whomever they are titled. Second, any contractual arrangements like beneficiary designations on investments or life insurance will control before your will would control. Updating how your assets are titled and the beneficiary designations is essential to ensuring your estate is transferred the way you desire.
You may assume that the friends and family you name in your will and other estate planning documents will be ready to respond when it is time to distribute your assets. However, relationships often change from the time you write your will to when it is executed.
You may lose touch during normal life changes, and your personal representative may have difficulty contacting the beneficiaries listed in your will. You can smooth out this process by keeping the contact information for your beneficiaries up to date so that your personal representative can contact everyone easily.
One of the most significant issues that can lengthen the probate process is beneficiaries who disagree about the will and how you choose to distribute your assets. When heirs decide to contest the will, it can cause significant problems during probate.
While you may not be able to avoid all disputes, you can take time to talk to your future beneficiaries about your estate plan and your intention behind it. In some cases, when your friends and family understand your choices, they are less likely to question the validity of your will.
The probate process does not have to be a long and drawn-out process. With skilled support, you can have a clear estate plan that supports a smooth path through probate.