Probate is the process of identifying, inventorying, and finally distributing assets to a person’s heirs. During probate taxes are paid, debts are settled, and the estate plan the person left behind is used as a guide. Unfortunately, in many cases people do not leave behind adequate instructions, forcing their heirs and the court to work together in order to settle the estate. While probate is stressful, it is possible to handle with limited trouble provided heirs work together, but there are times when probate can turn into a complete debacle. Keeping these tips for avoiding a probate nightmare in mind can decrease your chances of leaving behind a mess that your heirs must resolve.

Create an Estate Plan

Sometimes the most obvious advice is what is commonly overlooked. Multiple studies and surveys have shown that approximately one half of all adults in the United States do not have a will or estate plan in place. Creating an estate plan is not a fool proof way to avoid probate problems, but it at least places your heirs in a better situation. An estate plan serves as a guide that helps your heirs and representatives know what your final wishes were, allowing them to carry them out to the best of their ability.

Talk to Heirs

Transparency is one thing that many estate plans lack. Talking about wills is viewed as macabre, and some adults simply do not want their heirs to know what they may or may not be left. While avoiding difficult conversations may be easier for some families, this choice could lead to long term problems. Take the time to speak with your heirs about your final wishes and the decisions that influenced your choices. Letting your heirs know what to expect and understand why you made the decisions you did will ensure that they know your final wishes were what you truly wanted.

Plan for Trouble Caused by Personal Relationships

If two of your children have always argued and feuded during your lifetime, do not expect this pattern to change after you pass away. Plan for your children or other relatives to continue their habit of personal animosity throughout the entire probate process. Name a representative who is familiar with their feud and capable of working as a mediator. Do not assume that your family will start working together without incident after years of animosity.

Contact an Attorney

Sometimes it is impossible to know what to say or how to say it when it comes to planning for your own eventual passing. Instead of forcing yourself to do something that you find stressful or unpleasant, contact an expert who is able to handle the hard parts for you. A qualified probate attorney is able to discuss your unique situation and help you come up with the best way to manage your estate. If you or someone close to you has questions about probate, contact the probate attorneys at MMZ Law to schedule a consultation. Our team is standing by to provide you and your loved ones with the legal advice that you deserve.




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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.