How Safe is Your Estate From Going Through Probate Court?
Probate is the process of interpreting a will. Court is an often expensive and frightening place where words can get you in hot water, or free you from your troubles.
Always mind your words in Court, or in Probate Court, always mind the decedent’s words (decedent = the person who died).
What is Probate Court?
- Where dreams go to die – well, where the dreams of your kids peacefully going through your belongings go to die.
- Where wills go to be interpreted.
- Where families fight over your belongings.
- Where people have to go when their loved one did not have an estate plan.
- Where creditors try to get a piece of the pie.
- You have two options: it can be expensive for your beneficiaries, or it can be exorbitantly expensive for your beneficiaries, depending on how valuable your estate is.
- Where conservatorships and guardianships are established for loved ones who are unable to care for themselves
- Where you can research genealogy through death and probate records. Neato!
- Where nice lawyers help you wade through difficult topics left by loved ones when they pass.
You were responsible and had a will drawn up, but then you had only one witness attest to your signature.
Not knowing that this was a deficiency in the will, you went about your business for the next 10 years, maybe you got out of a rental unit and bought a home, you went on a few vacations and brought back Tahitian pearls and artwork from your travels. Tribal masks from Ecuador and Zambia.
You realized that travel was your life so you sold your home for a summer cottage and an RV. Sunsets on the beach one day and skiing in the Alps the next, and an unfortunate avalanche you couldn’t outrun – this time.
After an appropriate amount of time for grieving, but not more than 40 days (good heavens, no). Your adult children begin to rifle through your stuff, looking through drawers and bank safe deposit boxes, only to find a dusty, tea-stained document under the floorboards of the summer home next to your passport and old photos of the kids. Maybe it slipped through the cracks, maybe you put it there as an Easter Egg, you don’t really care – you’re gone, and this is one last practical joke for them to remember you by. In any case, they found your will.
“A WILL! We have found the will!”, one of them exclaims.
They think they are saved.
“But what does it say?” the other asks.
A week before, they had talked to an attorney who told them that they would be going through probate for the next few months years and that they need to find a will or risk a big fight between them. When they proudly present the will to the attorney (the old codger wasn’t a total nincompoop, after all), the attorney doesn’t have good news.
The will is deficient, there are not two witness signatures, the will is going to require interpretation from the probate Court. The house isn’t on the will, who is supposed to take the house? The Tahitian pearls and artwork are valuable, but the will doesn’t have a specific plan for personal property is everyone supposed to take one pearl? Sell them off and split it? Weigh their own portion of the estate against the pearls and let those go to the youngest girl? Even though there is a will, the issues that split families apart begin to pile up. The Court endeavors to divvy up the property in accordance with the law and the Court’s interpretation of your intent, which means nobody is happy.
Then, the bill comes due. The bill always comes due.
Probate Court is expensive. In Michigan, an average base price in attorney’s fees for assistance with a probate estate and filing is $2,500. The Court will take an additional $550 for an estate valued at $250,000, and almost $1200 for a $1million estate. Estates over $11.7Million are subject to exorbitant Federal estate taxes.
If this all sounds complicated, it is because the law IS complicated.
And I’m sorry about that, I really am. I don’t have a magic wand to change the system (well, not yet), but I can navigate the system to help you meet your needs. Let me uncomplicate it for you.
An estate plan is a system for passing your property onto others efficiently and without added headache or heartache. I come alongside you and together we build the system that works for you. This can be easy, think of it as a game.
Guide to the Game
1. Approach the game table
Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an interview
2. Understand the rules of the game
Get the rundown in an estate workshop
3. Set the pieces
Inventory your property and keep track of it using our predesigned worksheets, or on a document shared with an attorney for safe keeping, securely online.
4. Strategize your moves
In-person estate planning session with an attorney
5. Play the game
Collaborative document creation with an attorney.
6. Avoid the referee
Update your plan whenever you make a big purchase.
We make it easy with online collaboration and payment options, flat fee payments and estimates so you know what you’re getting into, open communication between you and your attorney, and follow-up to keep you updated throughout the process. Everyone needs an estate plan even if they don’t have one, but they avoid it for some reason. People fear death, and the uncomfortable conversations around it, but you don’t have to make the mistake of ignoring the inevitable.
Trust me, talking it out and crafting a plan is easier than you think, and actually can be fun.
Avoid probate – email email@example.com with your story, favorite morbid joke, or burning questions right now to start planning your estate today.