Probate may not be the most glamorous topic concerning estate planning, but it’s definitely an important one to think about. Depending on the planning and organization of an estate, the process can be very easy, or very difficult, for surviving family members. Here are the top things you need to know about the probate process.

Probate is a legal process that takes place after one passes away. The assets of the deceased are valued and distributed by the state. The state uses the assets to pay off debts and probate fees and then the remaining amount/items will go to surviving family. If the deceased had a will,the process will go much more smoothly because the state will try to accommodate to those final requests.

Probate is controlled by courts, typically filed in the county court of where the deceased resided. Because of the involvement of many different parties, the process can go on for some time.Probate can take one to three years in some states.1 In California, even an extremely smooth probate process can be about 8 months. The time can be affected by the complexity of the estate and if there are disputes among heirs.

The process also accumulates probate fees. The court takes a portion of the estate before debts are paid to pay off court fees, like if a minor needs to be assigned a lawyer or any other processing that needs to be paid. Probate fees can take as much as 10% of the deceased’s estate.2

Probate is also a public process. Because courts have to get involved, everything processed during probate is on public record. The monetary amount of debt, assets and exactly who received what asset are recorded. It’s not common for people to look around in public records,but for some, having that information out there publicly can be unsettling. One way to avoid the probate process is to put your assets in a living trust. This will allow you to set restrictions on who gets what and pick your own trustee without involving the courts system. In this case, the state doesn’t have to get involved and in turn, it makes matters private.

Estate planning can be a time-consuming process especially if you’re factoring how you want probate to be handled. Simply, the more planned and organized your estate is, the easier the probate process will be. Our financial architects can help you plan and provide guidance on what plans will be best for your financial situation.

Understanding how probate works and what you want the process to look like for your loved ones, is a major step in setting up your estate for the future.


1 “How Long Does Probate Take? A State Comparison.” Legal Match. Web.
2 “Do you Know the Top Reasons to Avoid Probate?” LegalZoom. Web.


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