You may have heard that one of the biggest advantages to having a comprehensive estate plan in place is that it can dramatically decrease your estate’s exposure to probate, if not avoid probate altogether. Of course, for that to be an incentive to create your estate plan, however, you need to know the drawbacks of probate first.
Probate is the legal process that is required of most estates following the death of an individual. When you die, you will leave behind and estate. Your estate may be simple, consisting of nothing more than personal property and maybe a small bank account or it could be a multi-million dollar estate consisting of numerous complex assets. Most people leave behind an estate that falls someone in the middle of those two extremes. Regardless of big or how valuable your estate is, the assets you owned at the time of your death must be accounted for, potentially taxed, and eventually transferred to the intended beneficiaries or heirs of the estate. Probate accomplishes all of that. The major drawbacks of formal probate, however, are that the process can take a very long time to complete and can deplete the estate of assets because of the costs involved in probate.
Even a simple estate will take months to complete. As a general rule, the larger the estate, the longer it will take for probate to conclude. Some estates take years to make it through the probate process. In the meantime, estate assets are inaccessible to the intended beneficiaries. If your family is depending on those assets to help make up for the loss of income your death caused, they could find themselves in serious financial straits waiting for those assets to be released from probate.
Probate costs and expenses can also chip away at the value of the assets you leave behind for family and loved ones. Everyone involved in the probate process is entitled to a fee for their services, including the Executor of the estate, the estate planning attorney who provides advice and assistance to the Executor, appraisers who provide asset values, and even the real estate agent who sells or manages your real property. The longer probate drags on, the higher some of these fees will be. In addition, estate assets may need to be maintained or managed until probate concludes, draining even more funds out of the estate.
To avoid the delay and costs involved in probate, consult with your South Carolina estate planning attorney about probate avoidance strategies you can include in your estate plan. Contact the experienced South Carolina estate planning attorneys at Kuhn & Kuhn Law Firm by calling 843-577-3700 to schedule your appointment.