Probate is a necessary and often useful legal process that ensures the heirs named in your will receive their inheritances and that the ownership of any property passes to others in a way that prevents legal entanglements. You may believe that a living trust can help your heirs avoid probate completely; however, some circumstances may require the need for it, even when you have a trust in place.
The American Bar Association notes that many states strove to simplify the probate process in recent years, but despite advances, probate is not only necessary but helpful as well.
When you have a living trust in place, those you did not name may claim to have a right to property or assets and might file a lawsuit that results in probate. This may occur under a variety of circumstances, including:
- Claims of paternity
- Siblings dissatisfied with their inheritance
- The claiming of property not listed in the trust
If any individual files a lawsuit in order to claim an alleged inheritance, then you and your family may have to navigate probate court to resolve the issue.
Many living trusts and simple wills may not require probate, but in the case of complex estates, the process may help more than it hinders. Probate can streamline large or intricate trusts that name multiple beneficiaries, especially with assets that do not otherwise pass outside the process normally.
Assets like retirement plans and life insurance plans usually do not require probate because of how they pass to the recipients. If probate is necessary, fees and costs may vary depending on the circumstances of the case.