When you pass on, your property does not automatically transfer to those whom you named as beneficiaries. Unfortunately, estate planning is not as easy as that. Even if you have a thorough, updated will, it must first pass through probate before going into effect.
Probate is the process by which the court determines the validity of the will, approves or appoints the executor and ensures the proper administration of the estate. Whether you should avoid probate depends on your circumstances.
Not every asset is subject to probate, such as life insurance policies and revocable trusts. In addition, small estates tend to go through the process quickly and easily. The more detailed and accurate your will is, the simpler the process will be as well. Probate limits the time creditors have to claim debts, giving you a chance of debt forgiveness.
Probate can also put to rest family disputes by confirming your will is valid and making sure the executor fulfills duties correctly. If you die without a will, probate is normally necessary, but in Georgia, your heirs can file to skip it if they agree on how to divide the property and if you owe no debs, no matter how large your estate is.
Despite its many benefits, probate can also come with disadvantages. First, the process is very lengthy, especially if your estate is complex or your family contests your will. Second, it is expensive due to all the court and legal fees, taking out a large chunk of money from the estate and leaving less for the beneficiaries. Third, the process is public, so it is not good for those who prefer their financial information to remain private.
Probate is neither good nor bad by itself. It can serve a beneficial purpose in many cases. However, if you want to avoid it, you can take steps, such as setting up certain trusts, to eliminate its need.