Probate is a legal process that endeavors to settle outstanding issues that are related to the disposition of individuals' end-of-life estates. For some Massachusetts residents, probate is a necessary component of closing out the legal and financial issues that come up when someone passes away. For others, it is a relatively expensive experience that may deprive beneficiaries of some of the wealth and assets they are supposed to receive.
One of the reasons that probate can be costly is because it can take a long time to complete. During probate, an estate administrator works to find assets, identify property, locate beneficiaries, pay creditors, and undertake many other important responsibilities. They can run into roadblocks as they work to find this and other information, and any delays can extend the amount of time that it may take to close out an estate.
The longer an estate lingers in probate, the more expensive it may become. Assets contained in the estate may be depleted to pay for the probate process, and therefore those who hoped to benefit from the legal undertaking may be left with less than they expected. Every probate case is different, though, and readers should remember that this post does not provide legal advice.
It is not always possible to avoid the probate process, but there are some effective legal strategies that individuals can employ to reduce the chances of their estates lingering in probate. Certain testamentary and financial documents and devices can be distributed without being probated, and estate planning attorneys can provide their clients with helpful information to incorporate these and other tools into their estate plans.