Probate involves the court process to ultimately distribute all the assets that you owned at the time of your death to your desired beneficiaries. This is a public process that includes exposing your entire probate file on the internet where anyone can see a listing of your assets, liabilities and exposing beneficiaries to a loss of privacy. This is one area where potential elder abuse can be avoided by protecting your surviving spouse and other family members from unethical persons seeking them out. Along the way, your Executor or Administrator, the person responsible to probate your will that you selected - or the court appointed if you did not complete your estate plan - has to become qualified, inventory all your assets, protect and preserve your assets, pay creditors, publish notices to beneficiaries, pay lawyers fees and taxes, work with the court and Commissioner of Revenue and do a myriad of other duties before the beneficiaries can receive their distribution from your estate. Legal and probate fees easily can run to 2-10% of your estate and more. Smaller estates may be especially hard hit by these fees in relation to the size of the estate. Remember that probate and paying all these fees are optional. You don't have to put your heirs through probate if you do proper estate planning.
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