Probate is an extremely public legal process that slows down the transfer of assets while leading to additional expenses for your estate. Without proper estate planning or the help of a probate attorney your estate value can be put on display, and in some cases, the amount of property or money left to your heirs is drastically reduced. The stress of probate has led to some famous meltdowns and highly publicized court cases. Recently, a man in Hartford, Connecticut became so frustrated during a probate-related court meeting that he poured cat litter onto a table and threatened his attorney. While not everyone goes to such extremes, knowing how to avoid a probate debacle may reduce the chances of your heirs ending up in the news after being caught in a multi-year probate case.

Maintain Transparency

Not everyone is comfortable letting friends or family members know how many assets they have amassed throughout their lifetime. Some parents are afraid that their children will not work as hard if they know there is a comfortable nest egg waiting for them in the future. Others are simply unsettled by the thought of friends knowing all of their financial resources. However, failing to maintain transparency could lead to the heirs you were trying to protect having no idea what they are actually entitled to. Letting your loved ones know that you have property to leave them and that you have an estate plan without letting them know the specific details about their inheritance is always an option.

Do Not Hide Documents

Telling the people close to you that you have a will or estate plan is not the only thing you need to do. It is vital that you make sure they know exactly where to find these documents. Hiding them in a safe or at a bank could lead to a disaster if you pass away and no one is able to locate your will. The family of Olympic gold medalist Florence (Flo-Jo) Joyner found this out when Florence passed away and her family was unable to locate her will.

The famous athlete told her family that she had a will, but never told anyone where she kept it.  This led to her family spending over three years in probate court before settling regarding asset distribution. The family lost a great deal of the estate in legal fees and many familial relationships were destroyed as a result of the extended legal battle. Had Flo-Jo told her family where her will was stored, the entire proceeding could have been avoided.

Retain a Lawyer

The most important way to protect your family from probate court battles is by retaining an experienced probate lawyer who can help you create an estate plan and then guide your loved ones through probate after you pass away.  The compassionate attorneys at MMZ Law understand that creating an estate plan is only the first step in securing your assets for your loved ones. We help you make a detailed plain that conforms to California law while meeting the needs of your family and estate in general. Contact us today to schedule an appointment so that we can begin discussing what options are best for you.




341 W. 1st St. Suite 100
Claremont, CA 91711

MARIVEL M. ZIALCITA is the founder of MMZ LAW, A Professional Corporation, where she practices in the areas of Elder Law – Medi-Cal Planning Asset Protection, Trust & Estate, Special Needs, Conservatorship, Trust Administration, & Probate. Ms. Zialcita is a frequent speaker on trust and estate matters and holds memberships in the State Bar of California, Trust and Estate Section, The San Bernardino County Bar Association, Wealth Counsel and Elder Counsel. She currently assists in the pro bono legal services program at the James L. Brulte Senior Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. She is based in Claremont but assists clients throughout Southern California.

This information is educational information only and not legal advice.