When you get interested in planning your estate and start to do some research into estate planning, you will invariably see the topic of probate mentioned quite frequently. You will often come upon strategies for avoiding probate, and there are some good reasons for doing so, but probate can serve useful purposes as well.
Whether or not the probate process should be avoided would depend on the details of your estate and the specificity of your wishes. But if your estate is going to go through probate, one thing is certain: you will need to appoint an executor or personal representative.
Probate is the legal process of estate administration whereby the probate or surrogate court determines the validity of the will and supervises the distribution of the assets. But before any asset distribution can take place all debts must be paid, and this would include taxes. So an accountant is often necessary, as is a probate attorney.
To prepare the assets for distribution the estate may have to bring in an appraiser or appraisers and/or a property liquidation company. It is the executor that has to retain the services of all of these different entities, satisfy their fees, and ultimately make sure that your heirs receive their inheritances in accordance with your wishes.
All of this is time intensive, and it takes a good bit of business savvy. The position of executor is not ceremonial; this person will have some very important responsibilities.
With this in mind, many people choose a professional entity to act as their executor or personal representative. This can be a trust company, the trust department of a bank, an attorney, or an accountant in some cases. These professionals will charge a fee, but if your estate is in any way complicated, most industry insiders would agree that it is money well spent.
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