This estate planning blog recently covered some concerning issues regarding probate and the probate process. However, we still have not given a clear definition in simple terms, and it is very important for you to understand what probate really is and when to be concerned about it.
Simply put, probate is the process by which your assets are distributed at the time of your death. Of course, this is a fairly vague definition. More specifically, probate is the process by which a court determines the validity of your will and oversees the disposition of your estate. Where you need to be concerned is in ensuring your estate planning tools are in order. A valid and up-to-date will is one of the most surefire ways to avoid probate. Of course, you should also prepare non-probate assets for distribution and ensure that all other estate planning and incapacity planning documents are in order.
Where families really have to be concerned about probate is when their loved one dies without a will or with a partially invalid will. At this point, the probate court takes jurisdiction and their final decisions may not be what you would have wanted or to your family’s liking. Sadly, this happens often, as many people simply do not prepare for the inevitable early on.
It is never too early to be prepared. Consult a Vermont estate planning attorney to learn more about probate and to get your will and other estate planning documents ready for life’s “what if’s.”