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What's the problem with probate?

The word "probate" generally strikes fear into the hearts of estate executors and planners alike - but have you ever thought about why probate makes you nervous? This useful process can actually have its place in an estate plan, even though it has a bad reputation among many experts in the field. Be sure you understand probate and its implications before making estate plan decisions.

First, it is important to understand exactly what probate entails. Probate is simply the name for the courtroom proceeding that allows an estate plan or will to be considered valid. Probate also allows for the designation of an executor, who will be responsible for carrying out the provisions contained in the estate plan. The executor facilitates the transfer of assets between decedents and their heirs. Even though probate sounds fairly simple, it can be difficult to understand. Florida probate proceedings are particularly challenging, according to experts, who cite its many pitfalls.

Probate is inherently expensive. In Florida, heirs must retain the services of an attorney before they can officially contest a will or even initiate probate. Attorneys in many cases will simply take a percentage of the estate's value in exchange for their services; this is money that heirs would otherwise have received if probate could have been avoided. Next, probate is very time-consuming. Even the easiest cases can last for six to eight months; with complications, an estate can take years to process. Further time drains can include negotiating with family members and finding an attorney. Finally, if you leave your estate to probate, everyone will have access to your financial information, as the process is entirely public.

Estate planning can help benefactors avoid the financial and emotional challenges that accompany probate. Benefactors can protect their heirs from the headaches associated with probate by simply visiting an estate planning attorney to ensure the estate has been properly allocated and structured.

Source: www.tcpalm.com, "Explaining some of the problems with probate" Robert D. Schwartz, Oct. 03, 2013

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