Common Myths About the Probate Process

Common Myths About the Probate Process

The average person is not likely to be well versed in estate planning law, so it should come as no surprise that there are a variety of myths that surround the estate planning and probate process.

Here are just a few of these most common probate-related myths and the truths behind them.

MYTH: The probate process will take years.

While some extremely high-value, complex estates or estates with lots of family infighting can take a long time, the vast majority of estates will not take that long to resolve. The biggest delays you can generally expect are the time that must pass under state law to allow creditors to file claims, which is a three-month window in Florida, for example. Once that period has elapsed, you can close the estate as soon as the personal representative has settled matters such as gathering and distributing assets and paying debts and taxes.

MYTH: If you die without a will, the state will get all your assets

 While it’s true that state processes dictate what happens to your possessions if you die without a will, the state itself will not automatically take possession. Your spouse and children will be the first to inherit, followed by parents and siblings. Your assets will only go to the state if no surviving relatives can be found.

MYTH: Probate costs will drain your estate value

 Even if your estate does need to go through the formal estate process, typically costs will only be five percent or less of the total value of the estate. Expenses increase if there is to be litigation.

MYTH: I’m under no obligation to leave anything to my spouse

 State law gives surviving spouses the right to take an “elective share” of the estate, even if you and your spouse came to an agreement where they would take nothing.  On the other hand, if your agreement qualifies as a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in your state, those agreements could have the effect of waiving the surviving spouse’s rights.

For more information about common estate planning myths and the truths behind them, contact an experienced Tampa estate planning lawyer at BaumannKangas Estate Law.