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OK, I've got a question for this board. I've heard and read so many people talk about how important it is to have a trust so you can avoid probate. Can somebody explain what's the big deal about probate?

When my Mom died in New Jersey, I was the only heir and executor. She had a will. I took it to the county courthouse to be probated. It was explained that “to probate” means to have it legally approved and judged to be legal. And it takes 10 days.

Keep in mind that her estate was below the (then) $600,000 federal estate tax limit.

After 10 days, I got a bunch of death certificates that would be required by banks, businesses, etc. for their records when I closed out her accounts. This whole deal cost about $35.

With these death certificates in hand, I had no trouble closing out bank accounts, CD's, which, by the way are NOT subject to early withdrawal penalties in the event of death, and everything else. So what's the big deal?

I can see doing some fancy footwork if your estate is over the federal estate tax limits but I know people who went to a lawyer to set up a trust. They have a $130,000 house and maybe $50,000 in the bank.

I'm hoping this is the right board to post on. The Fool sure has a lot of boards and I'm sure there's some overlap. If there's better one, I can cross-reference.



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