Some New Jersey residents who are creating an estate plan might wonder if they should take steps to avoid probate. There are advantages and disadvantages to the probate process, and a person should consider them carefully before deciding how to set up the estate plan.
Probate can be costly and may take up a lot of time. Beneficiaries who are waiting for assets to pass through probate may be left uncertain as to how much they will actually receive and when. Furthermore, the probate process is not private. The worth of a decedent's estate, what that person owed and other details are all open to the public.
However, there are advantages to this as well. When an estate is open to the public and will be reviewed in court, it might be less likely that a fiduciary is able to do anything unethical or illegal. Probate allows a person who objects to any part of the estate plan or proceedings to file a complaint. It is more difficult to challenge ownership of assets that go through probate since the court certifies titles.
Some assets, such as those passed on through beneficiary designations, automatically skip probate. Some people find that creating an estate in which some assets go through probate and others do not is the right choice.
There are several other aspects to an estate plan a person should consider besides what happens to assets. One important part of an estate plan is choosing people to manage health care and finances in case a person becomes incapacitated. Powers of attorney can give people this ability. People may also want to consider creating a living will. This outlines the type of life-saving measures a person wants performed and can help family with making difficult decisions during a stressful time.