Imagine that there was no Probate process. Suppose in a current Will, your Aunt Betty left you her entire estate. But what if Aunt Betty dies and your cousin brings a copy of her old Will into the bank naming your cousin as the beneficiary, and the cousin demands that Aunt’s accounts be distributed to him according to that old Will? How does the bank know that this is Aunt Betty’s last Will? What if your cousin beat you to the bank, and you didn’t realize it? What recourse would you have once the bank distributed to your cousin? The Probate process protects against this exact scenario and many others. If you submit a Will as the Last Will of Aunt Betty to the court, and someone else submits an older Will to the same court, now we have a centralized system that can ensure Aunt Betty’s wishes are carried out. Without Domiciliary Letters, financial institutions wouldn’t know who to trust as the personal representative. An individual claiming to be the authorized representative of the estate could disburse all the estate to various “beneficiaries.” The individual claiming to be the appointed personal representative could potentially leave no money for taxes or other estate expenses. Domiciliary Letters make it possible to confirm who is authorized to access accounts under Court supervision of financial records.
While Court supervision has some advantages, the Probate Process, like all court proceedings, is public. Every document filed in the matter is a public record, meaning anyone can acquire them and learn the particulars of the descendant’s holdings, liabilities, and beneficiaries. This is one of the most frequently mentioned disadvantages of probating an estate. Additionally, it can be expensive. Probate fees and costs average about 5% of an estate: Filing fees, inventory fees, personal representative fees, appraisals, holding and distribution costs, tax filing fees, and attorney fees make up the majority of expenses. If a matter is contested and court time is required, the cost percentage of an estate will increase quickly.
Furthermore, if the descendant held real property in more than one state, ancillary proceedings would be necessary for other jurisdictions to empower the Personal Representative to deal with these holdings.
Bob is a Certified Estate Planning Specialist and an Accredited Estate Planner by the National Association of Estate Planners. Ross Estate Planning, LLC is a client-focused estate planning law firm. Our team is committed to providing assistance and education to improve every client’s experience. It’s driven by a desire to not only assist individuals but also develop and promote our community. It all starts with a conversation. Call Ross Estate Planning at 920-743-9117 today.