When you come to the conclusion that it is time to take action and put an estate plan in place one of the things that you are going to have to decide on will be the vehicle or vehicles of asset transfer. To many people this equates to the creation of a last will, but a last will is not your only option. In fact, a lot of people would say that it is not the best choice because your estate has to pass through probate when you use a last will as your primary asset transfer vehicle.
Probate is often avoided for a few different reasons, and the one that is at the top of the list for most people is the fact that it is time consuming. Depending on the size and scope of your estate and whether or not all interested parties are on the same page, it can take anywhere from perhaps nine months or so to multiple years for the process to run its course. With this in mind it is important to understand that the heirs to the estate do not receive their inheritances until the estate has been probated and closed.
The other primary reason why probate is often avoided is because it can be quite expensive. The probate or surrogate court that supervises the administration of the estate charges a fee, and there are a number of other costs as well including accountants, appraisers, and estate liquidation companies.
The way that many people go about avoiding probate is through the creation of revocable living trust. You maintain full control of the assets while you are alive, and as the name implies you can change the terms or even dissolve the trust is you choose to do so. But when you pass away your beneficiaries receive their inheritances under the terms you set forth, and this transfer takes place outside of the process of probate.