Someone once told me that their definition of probate was as follows: "probate is essentially you suing yourself, with your own money, for the benefit of statisfying creditors and disgruntled heirs." Pretty terrible right? I have heard others suggest that "probate isn't all that bad, and attorneys who try to sell revocable living trusts to everyone are the only ones who make that claim." Also, seems pretty bad right?
Well, I am an attorney, and I represent people in probate and I also help people avoid probate. I have clients who utilize probate-avoidance tools such as Reovcable Living Trusts, and I have clients who have Will-based plans (instead of Revocable-Living Trust Based plans which utilize a pour-over will).
The truth is that there is really no way to say that probate is uniformly bad or good. It is completely dependant upon circumstances. I can say with certainty that the probate system is necessary. If it didn't exist, it would be the wild wild west, and if/when people didn't do any estate planning, people would be suing each other left and right...and that is probably understating how terrible it would be. On the other hand, many folks who have estates (big and small) that include assets that aren't exactly probate-friendly utilize will-based plans instead of trust-based plans, with the result being that their loved ones have a huge hassle to deal with when they pass away.
The point is that it may or may not be important for you to avoid probate. Factors that may be important include (but are not limited to):
- the type of assets (e.g. assets that are difficult to value or business interests should garner special attention in the planning process, which should take place prior to your death)
- the amount of your taxable estate
- the people involved (e.g. special attention should be paid to pre-planning for children, elders, family members with special needs, etc.)
In any event, if you want to discuss whether or not you should attempt to avoid probate of your assets, feel free to contact me. I am a Connecticut probate and estate planning attorney, and would be happy to set up a consultation. You can find my contact information by clicking here.