Thinking about having to go through probate when your loved one passes away might bring up feelings of fear and dread. It doesn’t have to be this way. In some cases, a person’s estate plan might make it possible to avoid probate.

There are several things that the probate process does. It is a court process that works to determine what the wishes of the decedent were. The court has to authenticate the will and determine who is going to serve as the executor of the estate. Heirs are identified during the process, as are the assets that are part of the estate.

During this process, all taxes and debts of the estate must be handled in accordance with the law. Once this is done, the remaining assets can be distributed to the appropriate parties. The entire process can take at least six months to one year. This can be a costly process because of the court costs and the attorney fees that you will have during it. For this reason, avoiding probate when possible is usually a good idea.

People who are creating an estate plan have several options for avoiding probate. Trusts are one of these, as are setting up beneficiary designations like the payable on death option that you have when you open a bank account or an investment account.

If you are discussing an estate plan with a loved one, find out what steps they’ve taken to avoid probate. If you are the plan creator, find out what options you have for doing this. You might be able to take a lot of stress off your loved ones.