Probate Is Not an Evil Monster
Some people are actually afraid of probate. The general public has been conditioned to fear probate and avoid it at all costs. But the probate process is not an evil monster. In fact, probate could be just what the doctor (aka "attorney") ordered in some circumstances.
Keep in mind that I am a strong believer in Living Trusts and all the flexibility and options they offer to my clients, including the ability to avoid probate. I'm also a realist, however, and I recognize that not everyone can afford a Living Trust or want a Living Trust if the amount of their assets is small.
That's where a well-crafted Last Will and Testament and the probate court come in. Yes, the process of distributing your assets through probate court can take time. It will also require the payment of court costs, but those costs could be as little as $100 for a small estate administration and $250 to open an estate in Cuyahoga County. The other costs to consider are fiduciary fees and attorney fees.
The additional time and expense may be worth the probate process in some circumstances. For example, you may want your Executor to liquidate your assets and distribute the net proceeds to the beneficiaries named in your Will. You may want to disinherit someone, leave money to charity, or give your artwork to your nephew. Your attorney can draft a pet provision in your Will, leaving your pets and pet supplies to someone you know who will take care of your pets or find them a good home.
Probate can avoid potential problems with beneficiary designations. If your family does not get along or there is a trouble maker in the group, the probate court will supervise your estate and make certain that your wishes are carried out by your Executor.
You should speak with an estate planning attorney about your wishes and goals, probate avoidance, and the estate plan that is right for you.