Probate is a legal process that takes place after someone passes away, and it often involves the distribution of the deceased person’s assets to their heirs and beneficiaries.
However, there are several probate myths and misconceptions that can create confusion and anxiety for anyone unfamiliar with the process.
Probate is always a lengthy and complicated process
Forbes found that only 46% of adults in the U.S. had a will in 2021. However, the length and complexity of the probate process can vary greatly depending on factors such as the presence of a valid will. Some smaller estates with clear instructions can go through probate relatively quickly, while larger, more complex estates may take more time.
All assets go through probate and are public record
Some assets bypass probate and transfer directly to beneficiaries, such as those held in a living trust, life insurance policies with designated beneficiaries and jointly owned property with the right of survivorship. Probate is a matter of public record, but most probate records are only accessible to interested parties and not easily searchable by the public.
Probate is expensive and creditors can take everything
Some states have relatively low probate fees, while others may have higher costs. Additionally, the sale of assets can generate funds to cover these expenses. In addition, creditors can make only claims against the estate for outstanding debts, but the beneficiaries receive any remaining assets.
The executor can do whatever they want
The executor or personal representative administers the estate according to the law and the deceased person’s wishes as outlined in their will. They are legally obligated to act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries, not at their personal discretion.
Understanding the facts can clarify the probate process and make it more manageable.