Estate planning is a complex matter with lots of uncommon and hard to grasp words. An example is the word ‘probate’. Do you know what it is, how long it takes, and if you can avoid it? In this article we’ll share our knowledge on this topic.

What is probate?
Simply put, probate is the process where the will of a deceased is proven in a court of law and accepted as a valid document. This is the first necessary step of administering the estate of a deceased person. When the will is proven as valid, the executor receives the letter of probate from the court.

Do you need to go through probate if there is a will?
Most wills will be subject to probate. Almost the only cases when probate is not needed is when there are no significant assets in the estate or those asset have already been transferred, for example in a trust. For this reason, we strongly recommend seeing if a living trust is a good option for you.

How long does probate take?
The process can take anywhere from six months to two years to complete. The factors that will influence the time period are the size of the estate and if there are any assets that require special attention.   

What types of assets are subject to probate?
The assets subject to probate are those that are owned solely in the name of the deceased person, such as real estate or vehicles.  Retirement accounts, life insurance proceeds, property held in a living trust, or funds in a payable-on-death (POD) bank account are not subject to a probate.

How do you avoid probate?
Yes, it is possible to avoid probate and there are four ways to transfer your property without going through the process. The ways are:

– Joint Property Ownership
– Death Beneficiaries
– Revocable Living Trusts
– Gifts

Additional useful resource:
Finally to make sure you have a better understanding about the probate process, here’s a great infographic:

Don`t forget to safely store all of your estate planning documents in so your family can find them when they most need your vital information.

Disclaimer: We are not lawyers. Please talk to your lawyer if you have any questions or doubts about your situation.