Many people have a negative opinion of probate and many clients set up their estate plan specifically to avoid probate. Probate can be costly, have significant delays and publicizes the estate of the deceased. There are significant advantages to developing an estate plan that avoids probate, but it is worth mentioning some of the positive aspects of probate as well. Many estate plans involve a well-drafted will that ensures a smoothly-run probate process. Here are some of the advantages to probate.
1) Protects the Decedent’s Wishes and Protects Heirs
One advantage of the probate process is that the probate court will generally honor the decedent’s wishes contained in the will. Since the decedent took the time and care to draft a will, courts will generally respect the decedent’s intent (assuming there was no fraud or undue influence). By drafting a will, a decedent can rest assured that his desires will be followed and those named in the will receive what they are entitled to.
The probate process also protects those named in the will: the legatees and heirs. Because the probate court supervises the administration of the decedent’s estate, those that stand to inherit are guaranteed a formal, systematic process. Since the court oversees the transfer of assets, it guarantees that those who inherit receive clear title.
2) Small Estates are Easier to Administer
In California, a simplified probate process is available to estates of $166,250 or less. All that is required is an affidavit to transfer the decedent’s assets. Estates of this size can completely avoid the full, formal probate process.
3) Notice is Given to Those Who Have an Interest in the Estate
Since giving notice of the probate hearing is a requirement, it gives those who have an interest in the estate an opportunity to be heard. It also allows for the decedent’s debts to be paid before the assets are administered to heirs or legatees. This provides for a full and fair process, where at the end of the day (ideally) everyone gets what they are entitled to.