Many in Pittsburgh have likely heard of how costly a process probating an estate can be. That can be true, depending on the amount of time that is required to complete it. Court costs and attorneys fees can add up over time, and those expenses are typically paid from the estate's assets. Yet there are steps that one can take to ensure that their estates are not delayed when going through probate (one might even be able to plan to avoid the process altogether). It is for this reason why so many estate planning experts encourage people to take up the process early on in their lives.
The consequences of not doing so can be costly. Take the estate case of the late singer Aretha Franklin. When the signing icon passed away last year, she left no will, trust or any other instrument meant to deal with her vast fortune. What has resulted is a complex case that threatens to eat away at her estate's assets. Her estate administration case began initially under shady circumstances, as law enforcement authorities in Michigan have confirmed that there is an active investigation into the theft of some of her assets. Then there is the $6.3 million tax bill that the IRS claims the estate owes (of which $3 million has already been paid). Recently, one of her ex-husband's claimed that he should also be paid a portion of her music royalties.
One may only wonder how a well-thought-out estate plan might have been able to avoid these issues and preserve the assets Franklin had earmarked for her heirs. Those hoping to avoid the same issue might be wise to seek out the advice of an attorney on how to initiate their own estate planning.