Special article brought to you by IntergraLAW
BY GARRETT SMITH
1) IT REDUCES THE ESTATE. Once an estate goes into the Probate system, it starts costing money thereby reducing the assets from the estate. The court needs to make decisions regarding the intentions of the deceased without any documentation showing what those intentions were. Attorneys, accountants, private investigators, and other experts may be brought in to provide evidence. All of them will be taking their fees from the estate, in addition to court fees. There have been cases where the estate was worth millions and all the funds were exhausted in fees due to disputes in court and not having a good estate plan in writing.
2) THE STATE STARTS MAKING DECISIONS FOR YOU. Without any documentation, the courts will decide how to dispose of property and provide guardianship of minor children or adults that require guardianship. They don’t understand your relationships with others. One person’s testimony is as good as another’s. The law provides guidance, but the judge will make decisions based on the evidence before them. Even then, the law may not be aligned with your own wishes. You may have wanted to deviate from the legal next of kin procedures due to issues with family members. Once the estate goes into probate, the outcomes become uncertain.
3) IT TAKES A LOOOOOOONG TIME. Our court systems are slow even when they are not overwhelmed with cases, which is almost guaranteed in today’s courts. Consequently, it may take years to have the estate adjudicated by the court. In the meantime, your family, your business, and your property are still being impacted by the expenses and taxes of day-to-day living, but no one has the authority (or funds) to deal with them.
4) IT PUTS UNDUE STRESS ON YOUR LOVED ONES. Hearings, taking the witness stand, being questioned by attorneys, and the uncertain outcomes can put major stresses on your loved ones. Not only are they dealing with the grief of losing someone, they are now confronting a legal proceeding that is preventing them from moving on.
5) LITTLE THINGS BECOME BIG THINGS. One of my fellow attorneys shared this story of an Estate that went to court over a hairbrush. The family did not fight over the house, the money, or other assets. They went to court and spent thousands of dollars fighting over a cherished hairbrush that several family members had very fond memories of their Grandma brushing their hair and talking with them. Possession of that hairbrush became a major legal battle that tore the family apart during court proceedings.
I am passionate about helping families avoid the pitfalls of probate. If you have questions about the probate process or would like to ensure that your final wishes are met, please give me a call!