Let’s face it, doing one’s estate planning isn’t something most people are excited about doing. It’s often easier to put it off and leave it for another day. Most people we talk to about their estate planning admit that it has been something about which they have procrastinated. They know they need it and have meant to do it but it’s something they just don’t get around to. Sadly, this procrastination can be very costly, both in time, expense, and aggravation. This blog discusses the high costs of procrastination.
With good advice from an experienced estate planning lawyer, most assets can pass on to beneficiaries without requiring a probate. Using a Revocable Living Trust and other estate planning tools, no probate should be required. Because probate can be avoided, the assets of a deceased loved one can pass smoothly and with relatively little time or expense.
If you’ve never experienced probate in Florida, take it on good authority that it is something to avoid. In 36 years of law practice, I’ve never heard a family member say that they are looking forward to having to probate an estate. Remember, probate won’t really impact you…you’ll be dead! But probate will impact your loved ones. They will have to deal with the time, expense, and aggravation of the probate process.
Probate in Florida involves hiring a lawyer, preparing certain required paperwork, and then filing a court case. Yes, in Florida probate is a court proceeding. It is given a case number and is assigned to a probate judge. It is governed by rules of probate procedure. Florida law requires that the probate estate go through certain court supervised steps. All of this can be very costly in multiple ways.
First, there is the time element. The average probate in Florida can easily take more than a year. This can mean that estate assets are caught up in probate and cannot be distributed immediately. In fact, in many instances, the assets cannot be distributed until the end of the probate. In the meantime, while the probate timeline creeps along, the estate has to pay ongoing expenses. This will ultimately deplete the assets available to go to the beneficiaries.
The second cost of probate is in terms of actual expense, i.e. money paid out of the estate. When a probate is filed, there are actual costs such as court filing fees (usually in excess of $400) and publication fees (often in excess of $100). More significantly, there are lawyer fees for handling the probate. On average, most probate lawyers charge three percent (3%) of the estate. Think about that. If an estate is valued at $1 million, the lawyer’s fee could be $30,000 with costs on top of that fee! These are monies that the beneficiaries will not receive. If you like paying lawyers, then this might not seem so bad…but most people do not!
The third cost of probate is aggravation (which can also entail stress, frustration, etc.). When a family loses a loved one, they’re often heartbroken and need to grieve. Eventually, they want to get on with life. But wait a minute, they can’t…there’s a probate that has to be dealt with and that might involve a year of court proceedings and lawyers. It might also involve paying out significant amounts of money for lawyer’s fees and probate costs. In our practice, we often hear family members say that having to deal with probate just rubs salt in an open wound. It’s an unwanted pain in the neck! Loved ones can’t get on with life because they have to deal with the probate. Having to go through the probate is truly an ongoing aggravation!
So the reality is that procrastination can lead to probate and probate can be very costly in terms of time, money, and aggravation. There’s a simple formula which expresses the reality of procrastination:
Procrastination = Lack of Estate Planning = Probate = Time, Expense and Aggravation.
These are the high costs of procrastination!