Why is the Probate Process Dangerous?
Many people think having a Will is enough to protect their assets, but a Will is best used as a last resort rather than your primary plan. Over our two decades of helping people create their estate plans, we’ve seen a lot of probate cases that sadly resulted in the heirs losing control over their beloved family member’s assets.
For instance, Mr. Jackson owned multiple properties in Georgia. He wrote in his Will that his properties were to go to his beloved daughter and she should also be his Executor. After Mr. Jackson passed, his daughter filed his Will with the Probate Court and was named as the Executor. She was then able to transfer his properties to herself, per his wishes.
However, the daughter didn’t know that once the assets were distributed, her job wasn’t done. Depending on the type of Will filed, the court requires the Executor to file reports on the assets – and those reports have to be filed annually until the probate is closed out. The daughter was not aware that the probate case had to be closed out and missed the deadline to file those reports, so the Probate Court removed her as Executor.
The new Executor was not a relative of the family and, as he was paid based on the length of time he worked on the case, he was happy to keep Mr. Jackson’s case open. He took control over the assets, meaning the daughter could not do anything with those properties. What’s worse, the new Executor’s pay came directly from Mr. Jackson’s estate. This meant that the longer the case was open, the more of Mr. Jackson’s estate went to the new Executor.
It’s important to protect your assets for your legacy – and it’s equally important to make sure that your loved ones aren’t subjected to the long and complicated administrative procedures of the court. That’s why it’s never enough to just have a Will – you should also have a trust and powers of attorney documents. As always, we recommend that you look for a local estate planning attorney and start your planning sooner rather than later.