Probate is the legal process of transferring title or ownership from the dead to the living. If you have a will, the court follows the instructions in your will. If you don’t have a will, then the state determines where your property and money go.

Probate can be a long, drawn-out process – even simple estates may take months to settle and complicated estates can take years. During that time, the money which loved ones will eventually receive cannot be spent to pay the mortgage, insurance, etc. In addition, creditors can make claims against your estate before it is settled by the court.

There are court costs and fees to pay to probate an estate when there is a will; those costs go up if there is no will.

You can avoid probate using trust-based estate planning. An estate plan is a set of legal documents and tools designed to protect your assets while you are alive and to clearly state how you want those assets distributed when you die.