When my mother died unexpectedly at age 54 we learned she had taken some steps in preparation for what all of us will inevitably face at some point- we are all going to die. In an easy to find location we found the Will she had written through her attorney friend. A few days after her funeral my siblings and I found ourselves in his office. Since we lived out of state, mom had asked him to be her executor so there was little for us to do. “Go home and I’ll keep you informed along the way” we were told. Why he couldn’t come to the house to tell us this instead of all of us going to him, so soon after buring our mother is a dynamic I will never understand nor find acceptable.
Eighteen months later the estate was settled. 9% of my mothers estate was the final invoice. Mom was one of the most organized people I have ever met so all the information was easily accesible. Why so much time and so much money?
Suveys have shown that going through the process of Probate – which is what all Wills must do – takes time and money. Certainly there are stories that don’t fit into these statistics, some cost more, some less. It is estimated that the cost of probate can land between three and 8% of the value of a person’s estate. (in real numbers – 5% of a $300,000 estate is equal to $15,000) Probate takes a minimum of six months, with an average time of 18 months to finalize the process and settle a Will.
Then of course there is the public nature of probate. Since this is a court room event, it becomes a public record. Wills and all the court records involved become public, available to anyone who wants to view them. Whether you go directly to the court house or use a computer, all the details of a person’s estate, their hiers, assets and more is revealed.
My mother did not have a large estate, which is why the large price tag was more intrusive. The attorney was her friend, not ours. Fortunatly my siblings and I got along and we found nothing to disagree about. In many families these disagreements, however trivial they may seem, lead to disagreements and possible contesting of the Will. A large number of Wills are contested, some over inconsequential matters, some over signficant matters. Both add time and cost to the Probate process.
The whole experience taught me a valuable lesson – no one should have to go through Probate!
Every state has what is called a Threshold estate value. In Wisconsin that amount is $50,000. A person having less than the threshold can go through administrative probate which is less costly and takes less time. Maybe a person in this situation can be served well with a Will. Only a qualified estate planning attorney should help make that decision.
Probate is not something you will go through, unless you are handling this for another person who is deceased, and it is not the position of honor one might assume. It is your estate, whether large or small, that will go through probate. Someone you love will be hand in hand with an attorney and the courts walking your estate through the probate process – If you choose a will as your final planning document.