Friday, September 16, 2016

What Is Probate? Will My Family Need To Go Through Probate Court?

     There is a lot of misunderstanding on just what probate is, and when an estate goes through the Probate court.  Many believe that if they have a Will, their family will not have to go through the Probate process - not true.  If you have no Will, your estate goes through Probate and if you have a Will, your estate goes through Probate ...  unless you have done specific probate avoidance planning, such as put in place a fully funded family revocable trust.

     So, let's look at what probate is: Probate is the formal process of transferring your estate assets to your creditors, and the beneficiaries as designated by law, or within provisions set forth in your will, if you had prepared one. It is court-supervised, requiring validation and accounting of all claims by creditors against your assets at your death, as well as requiring an accounting of all remaining assets, and approval of the distribution of such assets. At the beginning of a probate administration, a petition is filed with the court, usually by the personal representative named in your will. After notice is given, and a hearing is held, your will is admitted to probate and a personal representative is appointed. If you die without a will (“intestate”), your estate is subject to the same probate court administration, only the personal representative, or administrator of the estate, is appointed by the court, and the distribution is carried out strictly as the law prescribes.

     If your total estate assets at the time of death do not exceed $50,000, the beneficiaries of your estate may file for an “informal probate,” which is a simplified procedure to settle the estate without all of the formalities required in the standard probate administration.

     The probate process has some advantages. In highly contentious situations, though the costs to the estate will be relatively high, the probate court strictly applies the rules set forth in the law to resolve disputes regarding asset distribution, with oversight and final accounting approved by the court to ensure proper application of the law.

    Disadvantages of probate include its public nature; your estate plan and the value of your assets become a public record. Additionally the time to settle the estate, the formalities imposed upon the family, and the expenses to complete the process, can be significant. The average probate in Wisconsin takes approximately 18 months to complete and consumes approximately 6% to 10% of the estate value - for example in a $200,000.00 estate, one can expect $12,000 - $20,000.00 in costs that won't go to the heirs or beneficiaries.  The advantages and disadvantages of a probate proceeding should be discussed thoroughly with your estate planning lawyer.

   The Estate Planning Group / Davidson Law Office – Wisconsin estate planning attorneys provide Life & Legacy planning helping Wisconsin’s families plan for an uncertain future so they can stop worrying and start living.  Call us if you’d like our family of professionals to help you ensure your family and your legacy are protected no matter what happens.