The overarching goal of estate planning is to arrange for the smooth and efficient distribution of your assets to your selected heirs after your death. A lot of people automatically assume that the best way to do this is to execute a last will. Obviously you can go this route if you want to, but if you do your estate is going to have to pass through probate, and there can be some complications that go along with this process.
If you’re like most people you would prefer that your family members did not have to wait very long before they receive their inheritances. You are also not going to want to see challenges to your wishes. The probate court would be the venue within which interested parties could indeed contest your will.
And of course when challenges occur it can take a long time for the matter to be resolved. As a case in point, the battle between now-deceased Anna Nicole Smith and her late husband’s son started in 1995 and was finally resolved a few months ago. But even when there are no challenges to the will the probate process is going to take several months at minimum.
This is one of the reasons why you may want to consider alternatives to a last will such as a revocable living trust. But in addition to the potential for challenges and the time involved, probate comes with significant expenses that can reduce the value of your estate by perhaps 5% or even more depending on the complexity of the matter and the size and scope of your assets.
The best way to proceed with regard to potential probate avoidance strategies is to become fully informed before making final decisions. This is typically done by engaging the services of an experienced estate planning attorney.