When you start to search the web looking into Atlanta estate planning you invariably see people floating probate avoidance strategies. They skewer the process and try to make it seem like nothing but an unnecessary hassle, but when you take a closer look the treatment is always extraordinarily superficial.
They claim that probate should be sidestepped because it is “costly and time consuming.” This is an empty spin when you really examine the matter more closely because everything of value comes with some cost, and when it comes to important, high stakes financial matters due diligence takes some time.
Probate is the legal process that an estate must pass through that takes place in the probate or surrogate court. The court supervises the administration of the estate, which is conducted by the executor or a personal representative that is named in the will. If no executor has been named, the court will appoint a personal representative.
One of the fundamental responsibilities of the probate court is to determine the validity of the will. If its validity is in question, if more than one will is presented, or if the will is contested the arguments would be heard in probate court.
During the probate process all valid claims against the estate must be satisfied and this includes final taxes, so an accountant is often necessary. Once the debts are paid, the executor will have to inventory the assets and prepare them for distribution in accordance with the wishes of the deceased as stated in the will. This may include the engagement of an appraiser or appraisers and/or an estate liquidation company.
So the executor is going to be handling many transactions on behalf of the estate. Because it is all being done under the supervision of the probate court there is total transparency, and this is perhaps the most important function of the probate process.
Pyke & Associates, P.C. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.