Does A Will Avoid Probate?
No! Wills are your instructions to the probate court about what to do with your property. Property passing through a will goes through the probate process. The probate process is, essentially, a formal method to make sure that your bills are paid and that your beneficiaries receive the property that you are leaving to them.
So, what are the benefits of a will if it doesn’t avoid probate?
1 – A will allows you to control who receives your property after you die. Do you want to give all of your money to your spouse, your children, or only some of your children? Do you want to make sure that a disabled child, your parents or other dependent is taken care of? Is providing for your place of worship, school or charity important to you? A will can ensure that your wishes are followed. A will can also provide for contingent beneficiaries if a beneficiary unexpectedly predeceases you.
2 – Wills save your family money, as they can authorize many shortcuts that streamline the probate process. Wills can allow your executor to proceed without probate court hearings, waive the surety bond requirement, and allow the court to authorize independent administration. Without a will, your family may have to endure the long form of probate – supervised administration.
3 – A valid will is the only legal way to nominate a guardian for your minor child or children. If you have minor children, you know how important they are. Without a will, your opinion will not legally count. Neither the court nor your family members will have the benefit of your insight when determining who will care for your children and who will manage their money. You can also use your will to create a trust for your children’s education and support.
4 – Wills are the lowest cost planning option. They can be simple and yet very effective. Wills cost less than trusts or other sophisticated legal documents. A simple will, drafted by a licensed attorney, is the baseline protection that everyone with a child, home or bank account needs.
5 – Wills never expire during your lifetime, they are good for life. The will you create today has no expiration date. A valid and proper will can provide for the transfer of current assets as well as any property you may accumulate in the future. This is not to say that you should never review your will. Any time you have a major life change, you should make sure your will still reflects your wishes.
6 – Your will is a roadmap for the probate judge and your executor to follow. You direct how your property is handled and distributed. Without a will, your property will be distributed according to the intestate laws – these are the laws that provide the general default plan for people who die without a will. These default rules do not authorize any of the allowable shortcuts and may or may not fit your wishes regarding who receives your property.
7 – Your will shows your family that you care. A valid will makes everything easier, simpler and more streamlined. It eliminates hassle and gives your family the tool that they need in a crisis. The last thing a family wants to deal with during a time of mourning is a complicated and messy legal situation, especially one that could be avoided.
If you would like to learn more about what a will can do for you and how it is an integral part of an estate plan, contact us.