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Probate court is not always unwanted

Georgia residents dealing with estate planning concerns may find the probate process intimidating. Probate court is much maligned as the source of wasted assets and excessive fees caused by family infighting over an inheritance, but the process can have a place in strategic estate planning. The secret to an efficient trip to probate court is careful planning and forethought.

When someone inherits an asset through a will, it must go through probate. Each state has its own process, and sometimes the procedures even vary from one county to the next. When assets, such as real estate, are owned in more than one state, proper estate plans should consider the laws in every jurisdiction involved. It is possible to avoid probate but not always desired. On occasion, the meticulous oversight of a judge and court-appointed administrators is preferred by individuals who are wary of privately appointed trustees or asset managers. Some states have put in place more streamlined processes dedicated to smaller estates, but larger ones are still generally subject to the typical expenses and delays often associated with the usual grievances about probate court.

Probate is a public process, which can be an uncomfortable notion for individuals wishing to keep family affairs private. Critics are also correct in stating that probate can be very expensive and cause the depletion of assets by attorney fees. There are some assets that bypass probate as a matter of law, such as insurance benefits and jointly owned real property. Careful use of trusts or other vehicles can also limit the exposure of estate assets and shield them from potential depletion via the probate process.

Probate and probate litigation are often misunderstood but are useful in the proper context. Identifying one's ideal estate planning strategy can be done through consulting with a knowledgeable attorney and being candid about his or her goals for estate distribution.

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