On September 12, 2013

Over the centuries probate has become increasingly complicated as dying has become more complex and people have tried (and sometime succeeded) in cheating rightful heirs.

Over time as asset ownership and life in general has become more complex, the probate process also became more complex. It did not help that the legal profession got quite accustomed to significant revenue from it. At one time all states required in-person Court hearings, sophisticated legal forms and the like, which all but guaranteed that an attorney would be required to assist in the administration. All of this came at a great cost to the estate and a great headache for the executor of the Will. In short, probate became a complicated and expensive mess.

The good news is that starting in the 1970’s, a number of states began to significantly reform their probate process to simplify it and make it much less burdensome. As of 2013, over half of the states have subsequently made revisions (from minor to major depending on the state) in their laws to reduce the time and expense that made avoiding probate attractive.

Colorado is one of the states that have been the most aggressive in reform, and is arguably, one of the easiest, simplest, and least expensive states for probate. However, the salesman’s mantra of “Avoid Probate” with accompanying horror-stories have become so wide-spread that most people just accepted “avoiding probate” as a desirable goal without really understanding it.

Bear in mind that the outdated pitch of “Avoid Probate” (at least in modern probate states), while irrespective of actual truth, is still being actively used as a scare tactic by less-than-scrupulous peddlers of annuities and “trust mill planning.”

In states that have made significant reforms, probate can be a perfectly reasonable process for many residents of those states. However, in some states, (most notably California and most Northeastern states), almost everyone should try to avoid probate if possible. In addition, in some difficult probate states (about half of the states), it may seems as if the legal profession holds on to probate as a major income producer and often actively opposes both probate reform and/or probate avoidance

Categories: Probate

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