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What are the advantages and disadvantages of probate?

For many people, probate is something to be avoided at all costs, but the fact of the matter is that you can't always avoid probate court. While smart and organized estate planning can help reduce the time your heirs spend on probate matters, some estate issues have to go through the legal process. Spending too much time and money trying to avoid probate can also defeat the purpose of getting as many assets as possible to your heirs.

For heirs and family members, probate has both advantages and disadvantages. The positive side of probate is that it provides a fairly final ruling on certain matters, which can help some families find closure after a loss. The fact that the final decision was made by a court according to the law can also help reduce future fights over how an estate was divided.

The downside to these decisions is that the courts are bound by the law, and without estate documents, they can only do so much to properly divide assets. Even if you won't be able to avoid probate completely, make sure you work with an estate lawyer to make your wishes known and create vehicles by which your estate can be handled as you desire.

Another disadvantage to probate that we've covered before is its public nature. Probate matters are public record, so if you want to keep some information about your assets out of those records, you might consider creating a trust. You can place some of your assets in a trust while letting other assets go through probate; the trust provides some privacy protection for the assets you place in it.

Source: FindLaw, "What is Probate Court?," accessed Oct. 21, 2016

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