Probate is a court-supervised legal process that is responsible for assessing a deceased person’s estate, settling their outstanding debts, and distributing the remaining assets to the decedent’s intended beneficiaries. An “estate” encompasses all the financial assets and property a person owned prior to their death, such as: bank accounts, vehicles, real estate, etc.
To be frank, the last thing a grieving family wants to worry about is probate court – it’s costly, confusing, and time-consuming. It also tends to bring out the worst in family members who have expectations regarding the lost loved one’s estate. The entire process lasts about 6-9 months because the court needs time to validate the decedent’s estate plan and pay off their remaining creditors. Because family members can’t access their inheritance during this time, they may need to pay out-of-pocket for various court fees on top of funeral and burial expenses. In fact, the fees associated with the probate process often consume about 5% of the estate’s entire value.
Protect Your Estate & Your Family
The best way to protect your family from probate court is to develop a comprehensive estate plan that includes a will and revocable and/or irrevocable trust documents. While a will lists your intended beneficiaries, it’s your trust documents that protect your assets, interests, and heirs from the probate process.
Trust documents provide the following benefits and legal protections:
- You can build wealth by investing your assets
- Your documents can expedite the probate process
- Your beneficiaries can claim their inheritances soon after your passing
- You can decide if your assets are to be distributed immediately or over a period of time
- Your family may not have to pay expensive legal fees
- Your documents can reduce the risk of elder financial abuse
- You can protect your estate from being drained by state, federal, and estate taxes
The court is prohibited from accessing or utilizing any assets that don’t outright belong to the decedent. When you place your assets into a revocable trust, you relinquish ownership for the purpose of protecting them from the probate process. Even though you can’t claim ownership, you’re still considered the trustee, meaning that you have absolute control when it comes to modifying or revoking the document.
You also relinquish ownership when your assets are placed in an irrevocable trust. What separates these two trust options is that an irrevocable trust can’t be modified once it’s been established. The benefit of creating an irrevocable trust is that your assets are completely protected from taxes.
Because there are various trust options available, it’s important to discuss your circumstances with a qualified estate planning attorney before making any critical decisions. The individual documents in your estate plan need to work cohesively to represent your interests and protect your end-of-life choices. At Drexler Law, we can review your estate, explore your trust options, and help you develop a comprehensive estate plan that reflects your personal wishes and legal objectives.
Schedule a Consultation Today
Estate planning can be a complicated process without the guiding hand of an experienced attorney. Call our Colorado Springs estate planning attorneys if you have questions about the probate process or are interested in drafting an estate plan. Our legal team can also help if you are a surviving family member currently enduring the probate process. We can guide you through the entirely of the probate process and even represent your interests in court should there be any conflict over asset distribution.
Contact Drexler Law at (719) 259-0050 to schedule a consultation.