One of the most important reasons to plan your estate is to avoid probate. Probate is a time-consuming, expensive, and confusing court process. Probate does reduce fraud and theft from an estate, but it can leave heirs without access to your assets for many months.
Your beneficiaries cannot do anything to prevent probate — but you can. An estate planning attorney can help you place assets outside of the probate process so they pass directly to your intended beneficiaries. Most assets can be placed outside of the estate for probate purposes. For these assets, court proceedings are unnecessary. Heirs will receive the assets in a matter of
weeks, not months.
Some types of assets are outside the probate process due to their contractual nature. These assets include:
- 401(k), IRA, and tax-deferred retirement accounts. These accounts pass directly to named beneficiaries.
- Life insurance proceeds. The payment of the proceeds to the named beneficiary is part of the contract and outside of probate.