Probate, just saying word can conjure up a lot of nasty images. It’s best to avoid it by doing the proper planning beforehand, but if that is not the case well it’s a necessary evil. I’ve talked to a lot of people about estate planning over the years and a lot of the times they just want to do it themselves. Utah is a do it yourself state after all; Nothing wrong with that. When your kids are cursing you for leaving behind a mess what do you care you’ll be long gone! Not saying you can’t do it yourself and be ok, but let’s face it attorneys get paid the big bucks because, for the most part, they know what they are doing.
So what is probate and why do you need it. Say you own a home and you want to sell it. Well how does the buyer know that you can sell this home? You have a deed with your name on it, so you’ll transfer the deed. Easy enough, but if you are deceased how do they get your name off of it? Who can sign for you? How does the buyer know that the person selling the home really has the right to sell it? This is where probate comes in. The court will issue letters testamentary (or if you didn’t have a will it will be letters of administration) giving a person the power to distribute property legally. With the letters they can then transfer title or anything else that needs to be distributed in the estate.
So how do you get letters testamentary? First things first, hire an attorney! There are two kinds of probate, formal and informal. Formal is where you are going to end up in court. Lots of paperwork, lots of time, and yup you guessed it, lots of billable hours! Informal probate is where all parties agree on who will be the executor and if all goes well can be resolved relatively quickly. You won’t end up in court and this of course is our favorite kind of probate. Either way it’s going to cost you, so save your heirs some heartache and plan properly. It’s inevitable, so why fight it. You’ve worked hard for what you’re leaving behind. Don’t let it be spoiled by red tape and headaches!