When you are creating your estate plan, an objective you should strive for is structuring your plan in a way to avoid probate. Probate is a statutorily-based way of settling an estate requiring the oversight of a court. When probate is required, a surviving spouse or other love one, is typically appointed by the court if your deceased loved one had no Will, or if they did leave a Will and named you as the Executor or Executrix. Once appointed, the executor possess the authority to distribute the assets of the decedent along with paying any outstanding bills and taxes.
Why You Should Try to Avoid Probate
A big reason to avoid probate is cost. There are a myriad of mandatory fees that the estate must pay when settling an estate through probate. For example, the estate will be required to pay filing fees with the court, bond premiums, cost of publicizing the estate in a local newspaper, and attorney’s fees. Missouri law requires attorneys receive specific fees depending on the size of the estate. For example, if your estate is valued between $5,000-$25,000, then an attorney will receive, at the very least, $250 and roughly 4 percent of the total value of the estate that exceeds $5,000. If, on the other hand, your estate is valued between $100,000–$400,000, an attorney will receive, at the very least, approximately $3,300 and roughly 2.75 percent of the total estate value exceeding $100,000, according to Probate Code § 473.153.
In addition to the cost associated with probate, here are three key benefits of avoiding probate:
Benefit No. 1 – Save Time
Under Missouri law, an estate must remain “open and active” for at least six months. This is required by statute. And this six month minimum does not take into account potential complications or challenges made by family members. As a result, an estate that goes through probate typically will not get resolved for one year or longer. If you decided to structure your estate through a living revocable trust, you can sidestep many of these issues and retain more control over how your estate gets resolved.
Benefit No. 2 – Reduce Complexity
Probate can become extremely complicated, especially considering the fact that each county in Missouri has a different set of procedural requirements that must be followed. If you don’t follow these jurisdictional requirements, it creates additional delay and higher court fees.
Benefit No. 3 – Reduce the Risk of Family Discord
Many people mistakenly believe that when someone passes away, there is a reading of their Will so every family member knows who is inheriting what. The reality is that Will readings are quite rare and were mainly a creation of Hollywood movies and television programs. As a result, when someone passes away and only leaves a Will, it creates a higher risk of family discord because family members are often only notified of what they stand to inherit by the Executor/Executrix. If that individual is a surviving spouse or relative, it increases the likelihood that distant relatives may try to challenge the provisions of the Will.
Consider Establishing a Trust
As you can see, there are many pitfalls and problems with probate. That is why you should consider establishing a living trust. It can be a much more efficient and effective way to settle your estate. The first step in creating a living trust is to schedule an appointment with a St. Charles estate planning attorney.
Have Questions? Contact The Polaris Law Group Today
The Polaris Law Group is ready and able to help you create a tailored estate plan focused on honoring your wishes and making sure your loved ones are taken care of after you are gone. Polaris Law Group is comprised of experienced and skilled St. Charles trust and estate attorneys Scott Stork and Raymond Chandler. Schedule a meeting with Scott or Raymond today by filling out a quick contact form today.