What is the average cost and duration of a probate proceeding?

On behalf of Scaringi Law posted in Estate Planning on Friday, September 4, 2015.

As we've discussed on many occasions, payable-on-death accounts typically avoid probate and pass to the named beneficiary. However, in the event of lifestyle changes, estate planning can provide for contingencies that will allow such accounts to pass to successor beneficiaries, or at least keep the named beneficiaries up to date.

True, accounts like IRAs or bank accounts without a current payable-upon-death beneficiary designation can go through probate to determine the appropriate beneficiary under applicable law. However, the national average length for probate is around 13 months. In addition, the national average cost of probate is between four to 10 percent of the decedent's gross estate.

Although probate can be time-consuming and costly, there are strategies for combining a will with trusts for maximum benefit. For example, wills can be used to create trusts for any purpose. They can also name guardians for minor children or other dependents.

Indeed, the process of earmarking assets for future beneficiaries doesn't have to be delayed. With a living trust, an individual can place property into a trust without giving up control. The distribution to beneficiaries will not occur until after the individual's death, and only in accordance with the trust instructions. The trust instructions could even provide for the assets to flow into a different trust.

Our law firm has helped many clients find just the right balance of trusts, non-probate accounts and other estate law instruments to accomplish their objectives. In addition to designating certain property for beneficiaries, careful planning can also minimize estate taxes and provide instructions for medical care in the event of incapacity. Every individual can benefit from an estate plan, regardless of the size of his or her estate.

Source: NewsOk, "Trade Talk: Avoid probate by creating a trust," Paula Burkes, Aug. 25, 2015

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