Keystone Law - April 2020

Trust Matters APRIL 2020


The Joys of Probate A Very Serious Look at This Unique Experience

In honor of April 1, my firm and I just wanted to take a moment to celebrate one of the most underrated experiences in the modern world: probate. Why so many people come to us in order to avoid sending their loved ones through this protracted legal process is a mystery to us. So, we wanted to do our part to highlight the many, many joys that can be found within the confines of probate court. First and foremost, when your estate goes through probate, your family will have the rare experience of getting to know a great deal of attorneys. These colleagues of mine won’t hesitate to ask your relatives about the deepest, most personal details of their lives. Even after three years of law school, I never developed such a relationship with my fellow lawyers — and believe me, it stings. But for the low, low cost of not writing an estate plan, you can give your closest relatives the chance to be interrogated by these legal professionals. It’s like they get to play a supporting role in a made-for-TV courtroom drama! Did we mention that probate gives families an up-close look at the court accounting system? They’ll marvel at the government’s ability to quantify and redistribute your most personal assets. This is especially great if you have an aspiring bureaucrat in the family. Think of probate as a field trip for them to learn just how complex, unintuitive, and unsympathetic this system can be! Still not sold on this sincere endorsement of probate? Well, what if we told you that a judge may order your family members to make certain medical decisions or tell them where they can or can’t live? We’re sure that having those important decisions taken off their plate by a stranger they’ve never met will definitely be a relief for them.

there’s still hope. Much like growing a beard, the key to having a probate-worthy estate plan is to do nothing and hope for the best. Don’t maintain your plan by updating it after major life events or adding detailed language to clarify your wishes. Just let it slowly become an unkempt mess that others will have to untangle. Of course, if for some reason probate doesn’t sound like a good fit for you and your loved ones, you can always call an experienced estate planner like myself. But why would you want that?

But let’s not minimize the role your own family members can play in making probate a gripping, dramatic experience. For those who fight for sport with relatives at Thanksgiving dinner, probate is going to feel like the Super Bowl. Where else will they get a chance to dredge up the oldest, ugliest moment of your family’s history and use it as a cudgel against those mourning your loss? Truly, there’s no better way to decide who gets your silverware. If you want the peace of mind that comes with knowing your family will descend into a prolonged, emotional process in the wake of your passing, we’ve got good advice for you. Just don’t make a plan! Yes, it really is that simple. We don’t even have a 1-800 number you need to call. And if you feel the need to absolutely ensure this fate for your family, consider writing“go to probate”on a sticky note and submitting it as your last will and testimony. “But Francisco,” you may ask, “what if I already have an estate plan?”Great question. In the event that you took efforts to cheat your family out of the one-of-a-kind drama that is probate,

April Fools,

-Francisco | 1

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