You may have heard a lot about avoiding probate, but many don't understand why this is a desirable idea. After all, what could be so bad about a legal process that has always been used to deal with estates after a death occurs? For the answers to that question and more, read below.

The Probate Process is Slow

While probate timing can vary from estate to estate, in many cases it takes a long time for an estate to get through court. Part of that is because state laws dictate that the estate must remain open long enough for anyone making a claim to come forward. In other cases, it's because the probate courts are behind on processing cases and the pandemic can probably be blamed for that. Another issue is that probate lawyers who file the cases are also behind because of COVID-19, and it can take several months after a death to ever meet with a lawyer to begin the process. In most cases, probate can take anywhere from about six months to longer for more complex estates. That means that loved ones must wait to receive their property, which can only prolong their efforts to obtain closure.

The Probate Process is Public

When property is probated, it's made public. Anyone who is curious can read a will and any other probate document if they wish. Other means of addressing property, such as a trust, are private and everything contained in the trust is kept confidential. A trust is only one way of quickly and privately dispersing estate property after a death. With a trust, even the other beneficiaries of the estate may not know what the other beneficiaries are receiving – unless they want to tell each other.

Another way of dealing with estate property that is private is to work directly with a bank or investment firm to create a document that circumvents probate. Checking accounts, saving accounts, retirement accounts, and any type of investment account can be almost immediately and privately made available to those listed on the documents. This process, known as either a payable-on-death or transfer-on-death document, is used to directly provide those listed with the contents of the accounts. None of the accounts listed on these forms are probated.

Speak to an estate planning attorney and find out more about ways to keep as much property as you can away from the probate courts.