When we mention probate, we generally mention three things: (1) a Last Will and Testament does not avoid probate, (2) probate is time consuming, and (3) probate is expensive. We’ve addressed why Wills do not avoid probate many times, but we haven’t addressed why probate is time consuming. So, why is it? Why is it expensive? Hopefully we can answer those questions for you.
Probate generally falls under two major categories: summary administration and formal administration. Formal administration is the normal process used for estates, while summary administration is the expedited process used for smaller estates. In both summary and formal administration, a good deal of work must be done before filing the proceeding with the courthouse. Exactly what documents must be prepared is heavily dependent on factors such as whether there is a homestead property, a last will and testament, or creditors. Each of these factors leads to different or additional documents. Preparation of these documents can take between a week or a few months depending on the size of the estate. These documents are then filed electronically with the courthouse (the original last will and testament must be mailed in or filed in person), and the estate is officially opened.
At this point, we immediately schedule a hearing and begin preparing proposed orders for the judge to sign. Once the judge enters the proposed orders, summary and formal administration begin to look very different. For summary administration, once the judge enters an Order of Summary Administration, the estate is closed. For formal administration, the judge will enter an order called Letters of Administration. Formal administration has a number of additional steps. For example, we must publish notice to creditors in a local newspaper, file an inventory, and file a final accounting. These steps can tack on an additional three to six months at the least, with larger estates lasting up to a year or longer.
The above summary of the probate process is just that: a summary. There are many other problems that can arise (and do arise) when probating an estate. Different counties have different requirements for each step of the process. In addition, the open proceedings of probate allow other interested parties to challenge the Will or file claims. Ultimately, the time spent on preparing these documents, appearing at hearings, and dealing with unforeseen problems is why probate can become so expensive. Not to mention the filing fee (often $300-400) and other costs such as paper, postage, and mileage add on to the final cost.
We spend so much time stressing the importance of avoiding probate because the time and money spent just isn’t worth it, especially when you can avoid probate. If we can help you or a family member probate an estate or avoid probate altogether, please contact us at (813) 244-7758 or Ross@RossSpanoLaw.com