Remember in Star Wars: A New Hope when Han, Luke, Chewy and Princess Leia slide down the trash chute and subsequently find themselves in a giant garbage compactor getting squeezed from both sides?
Well, that’s kind of like probate. It’s a giant posthumous squeeze.
What in the Mustafar is Probate?
Probate is a legal process where a judge confirms or adjusts a will, if there is one, and then permits the transfer of assets to beneficiaries. Probate collects assets, pays liabilities and taxes, and distributes the remaining estate to vetted beneficiaries. In cases without a will, the judge distributes the assets of the deceased in accordance with his/her best judgment and opinion.
Like the galactic compactor in Star Wars, moving and squeezing its contents, probate can be painful.
It Can Be Painfully Slow
Regardless of what is written or which heirs are awaiting their inheritances, the will is not binding until probate deems it so. Similarly, no matter how much Han, Luke, Chewy and Princess Leia scrambled, or how many large objects they braced against the impending metal walls, all they could really do was wait.
The longer the crew sat in the trash, the worse their prospects became. Luke, for sure, got the worst of it. The giant, slimy Dianoga nearly strangled him to death in the depths of liquid, rotting garbage.
In the case of probate, it’s also a slow and deliberate waiting process. During probate, which could potentially take anywhere from a few months to years, costs add up. Mortgages, property taxes, and bills may deplete or perhaps even exhaust an estate before a settlement and distribution occur. It’s waiting. Squeezing. Wasting.
The similarities between Han and Chewy’s predicament and probate are adding up. For the beneficiaries of an estate, probate converges grief with an unfamiliar legal process. Families find themselves sandwiched between planning memorial services and trying to settle the financial affairs of an estate. Probate can be seen as a barrier between you and your loved one’s last wishes.
If It Takes Too Long, You Get Squeezed
Furthermore, the probate process can not only eat away at an estate’s value, but it can also place important family decisions in the hands of courts and lawyers. Like Luke, Han, Leia and Chewy, their fate was out of their control. They couldn’t escape the oversized garbage unit on their own. No matter what they did, they were stuck. They were trapped and squeezed until R2 flipped the switch and saved the day.
Among the many lessons learned from Star Wars, we’ve certainly learned to avoid giant galactic compactors. They have heavy doors, slimy, wet garbage and deadly attacking Dianoga. Likewise, probate should not be entered without careful consideration. For most family estates, its settlement is faster and more cost effective without probate. Probate takes time and creates a public record of all estate transactions.
Obviously, none of us want to join Luke in his wrestle fest with the Dianoga. We don’t want to sit with our friends and family and watch heavy metal doors squeeze us from either side. The question is: why do we sit idly by and watch our estates and families go through probate? At least in my family, I can’t speak for yours, I don’t have an R2 unit to save the day. Such a bummer. I don’t have a dashing, brash, and misunderstood outlaw to problem solve with. Doubly sad. Blast, I have to do it myself. It’s up to us to avoid the post-hummus squeeze for us and our loved ones.
How Do You Avoid a Complicated Probate?
- Make a will, sign it, and keep it where others can find it when they need to
- Make sure your witnesses and signing follow state guidelines and laws (it’s often different in different states)
- Create a trust and fund it with your assets
- Families and values may change, so make sure to update your will and trust to reflect those changes
At Tomorrow our aim is stay far away from any and all Dianoga…
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