The headlines make it sound like a clear-cut answer: “Why you should do everything possible to avoid probate,” one of these posts might read.
The truth is, estate planning is more nuanced than that. Avoiding probate might indeed be the right path for some families. But for others, the probate process might offer benefits that may make some supposed downsides worth it.
Before committing to a path, here are some reasons you might want to consider including probate as part of your estate plan.
It might be cheaper upfront
Some attorneys recommend using various trusts to avoid probate. Trusts can be quite complex however, requiring some real effort to ensure all paper work and language is correct down to the smallest detail. Because of this, setting up and administering a trust can be more expensive compared to going through the probate process. There may also be some uncertainty or additional hoops to jump through with trusts.
While probate costs are often the subject of criticism, the process does allow for the estate’s assets to pay those fees, rather than requiring money upfront. Some families might prefer that financial flexibility.
Probate is a thorough, defined process
The courts oversee probating of an estate, and do so by following a clear, thorough process with defined steps. In Minnesota, there is both informal and formal probate depending on how complicated the situation may be.
While it can take months to finalize this process, the clear sequence of events provides certainty and predictability. That can be a reassuring thought for some people.
Creditors have a time limit
One unavoidable aspect of settling an estate is paying off debts. During probate, creditors generally have a limited amount of time to submit a claim for any obligations it believes are still owed by the deceased’s estate. This predetermined window may help prevent unwanted surprises from creditors down the line.
A documented process
Going through probate can help ensure decisions are properly documented, including how much assets are worth and where those assets went. Because the probate process plays out in the courts, it is also considered public knowledge. That may be appealing to families who want a public record of the assets’ distribution.
What should you do?
Probate may help ensure all your i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed, while offering a predictable, documented process with legal oversight. Families who may not want the upfront hassle of planning everything around probate may find those aspects attractive.
What is the best path for you? The answer will depend on your family’s priorities and circumstances. Just don’t make up your mind before considering all the options.