Many people considering their estate plan would like to avoid probate. I have found that many who have a will in place believe they have avoided probate. Avoiding probate eliminates unnecessary attorney fees (starting at $2,500.00 and sometimes much more), keeps your affairs private, keeps the court system out of your private matters, and it circumvents the months of delay that is needed for a probate action.
A will is essentially a letter to the judge. It will, by definition, be enforced during a probate action filed with your local probate court.
Why have a will? First, if you have minor children it is the best way to name a guardian for your children in the event of your passing. Naming such guardians is a parental responsibility. Second, it provides a safety net to make sure your wishes are enforced in the event your probate avoidance plan fails in some fashion. Whether simple or complex it provides instructions from you on how to handle your estate. Thirdly, even if you successfully avoid probate, it communicates to your loved ones who you chose to guide the process of wrapping up your affairs. It provides certainty to your loved ones as to your intentions and distribution plans.
A will can do many things – but it does not allow you to avoid probate. Avoiding probate takes planning and follow-through. A will is part of most all estate plans and with some planning it will allow your loved ones to have the certainty only you can provide while avoiding some of the hassles of a full fledged probate action.