What’s Wrong With Probate?

Probate can be a simple, painless process. Sometimes, however, it can be a nightmare, and that’s what gives it a bad name. Probate just means “to prove.” Your personal representative has to prove to the court that the document being offered for probate is your last will. Probate begins with your personal representative filing your will with the court, along with your death certificate and a petition asking the judge to recognize your will as your last will and testament. The petition also asks the court to give your personal representative the authority to carry out its terms.

Once the petition is filed, copies of it and your will must be sent to just about all of the people who could be affected by your will. Those people include not only the individuals named in your will, but also the people who, by law, would have gotten your stuff if you died without a will. So the first thing probate does is provide a venue (for larger estates, a colosseum) for a fight.
If that doesn’t sell you on the benefits of probate avoidance, consider this. Probate is a public proceeding. That means that anybody who wants to can go to the probate court, obtain copies of your will, and gather other sensitive and personal information about you, your stuff, and your family members, and then do who-knows-what with that information. If you and your loved ones value privacy — and you should — then probate is an awfully good thing to avoid. The public nature of probate all by itself should deter most people from subjecting their loved ones to it.

Some years ago, the Last Will and Testament of Michael Jackson appeared on the internet. Once the King of Pop’s will was filed in court, somebody downloaded a copy and posted it on the internet. Do you want your will to be the next online “Thriller” or would you prefer to tell the internet trolls to “Beat It?” So, probate can take a long time, be expensive and publicize things that are best kept private. Read my next article for more about avoiding probate.

Scott Makuakane, Counselor at Law
808-587-8227 | maku@est8planning.com


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