Probate is the name given to the court procedures often required to administer an estate of a person who died either with or without a will. The procedures include the court appointment of a personal representative. The court must approve all the actions of the personal representative, and all matters concerning the estate including an inventory of the assets and who gets the assets. The probate records are public record accessible to anyone. The probate process often ties up assets for at least nine or more months before the court can approve the actions of the personal representative and order the estate closed and approve the final distributions. There are court costs, publication fees and other fees associated with the probate of an estate. However, having court supervision assures you that your estate will be distributed as directed in your will.
The probate process is usually not the nightmare that some people describe. The added expense and burdensome procedures borne by your loved ones may be avoided. If you have more than one child, or more than one beneficiary, a revocable trust or living trust is usually a better choice than a will. There is some expense to establishing a trust, and it will not be effective unless your take the time to transfer the title to the bulk of your assets into the trust. Another advantage of the trust is that it enables you to provide for the management of your assets should you become incompetent.
It is best to consult an attorney experienced in estate planning to fully explain to you the advantages and disadvantages of probate and of the use of a living trust so that you can make an informed decision.