Probate Is Not What You Think It Is

The average person, when asked, would not be able to give a very detailed explanation of what probate is. Most people, if they know anything about probate at all, learn about it secondhand through stories told by other people. Because of this, a lot of people hold some potentially harmful misperceptions about probate and the probate process in general.

Basically, probate is the collection of laws and procedures that apply to the property a dead person leaves behind. To determine who the new owners of that property are, a probate court will have to get involved and make sure the property is handled properly. However, this process isn’t well understood by the general population. To learn more about it, let’s take a look at some of the common myths surrounding probate.

Myth 1. You can avoid probate completely if you just make a will.

Not only is this myth inaccurate, it’s exactly opposite of the legal reality. By making a will, you can choose how you want to leave your property to others.

After you die, someone will have to take your will to a probate court to allow the court to determine if the document complies with Colorado legal standards. If the will is legal, the court will use your will to distribute your property. If not, the court will rely on state law to determine who will inherit.

This means that all wills have to be probated. Creating a will does give you the ability to choose inheritances, but it does nothing to help you avoid probate.

Myth 2. Probate will last years and cost a lot of money.

Though there are some probate cases that do last years, these are by far the exception to the rule. Most probate cases will be resolved in less than a year’s time. Only those cases that involve legal challenges or lengthy trials will drag on.

The fees involved in probate can be significant, but again, they are usually less than what many people expect. Not only that, but if you choose to create an estate plan, you can create tools that will allow much, if not all, of your property to avoid the process entirely. Creating an estate plan that avoids probate will save both time and money in the long run.

Myth 3. Probate is something I’ll have to worry about because the death tax will take all my money anyway.

The so-called “death tax,” better known as the estate tax, is a widely overblown fear. The federal estate tax doesn’t apply to any estate that is worth less than $5.35 million as of 2014. If you have an estate worth more, there are steps you can take now that will help reduce, or even eliminate, the amount your estate might have to pay.


Author Bio

Catherine Hammond is the CEO and founder of Hammond Law Group, a Colorado-based estate planning law firm she founded in 2005. With a strong focus on protecting families from the legal consequences of disability and death, she creates comprehensive estate plans that minimize taxes, costs, and government interference.

A native of Denver, Catherine completed her undergraduate studies at Coe College in Iowa, and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Denver College of Law in 1993, concentrating on estate planning, tax, and mediation. Catherine is a member of various professional organizations, including WealthCounsel, ElderCounsel, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, the Colorado Springs Estate Planning Council, and the Purposeful Planning Institute. Beyond her legal expertise, Catherine provides transformational coaching to support clients and their families through life transitions.

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