Chalk Talk: The Probate River


Hi, this week at Chalk Talk, we are going to look at what I like to call the probate river and it really has to do with estate planning. When you look at estate planning in general, here’s you and here’s all the stuff that you have on this side of the river. Eventually when you die, what you’re trying to do is get the stuff that’s in your name across the river to your beneficiaries names. So that might be your family, it might be a charity, it might be friends, whoever your beneficiary is, and there is a default provision to get stuff across the probate river and it’s basically called probate, of course. So let’s imagine you die and you have no estate planning done, right? You’ve done nothing and we know a lot of stars who’ve died without an estate plan, you got Howard Hughes and Marilyn Monroe and all these other people.


There’s a default option for those people who haven’t done any planning. So if you haven’t done any estate planning, this is what happens. You and your assets get to go into the probate river. In fact, what happens is you get on the little dock out here and you get in this raft, your assets go in this raft. What’s happening is the court is kind of in charge of that raft. You go through a process called probate and the goal is to try to get this raft to cross the river as fast as possible. Of course, it doesn’t always happen very fast because sometimes this river has some turbulence. For example, beneficiaries don’t agree, and they raise their hands and say, “That’s not fair. I want to sue,” or, “I want to have a proceeding.” And before you know it, it doesn’t go like this. It goes like this and eventually gets the other side of the river. And that’s great that it gets across. But of course, the longer it takes to go across, the bigger the attorney’s fees, the more the attorneys get, the less of beneficiaries get. It can be a nightmare.


Now, a lot of times people think, “Oh, I’m good, I don’t have to worry about this because I have a will. I have a will.” Well, we only have one small problem with a will. All that a will does is it tells the probate court what your wishes are. That’s all it does. A will basically says the probate court, “This kind of what I want to have happen.” And that’ll probably happen unless the beneficiaries want to fight about it and hire lawyers and then who knows what happens. But a will pretty much guarantees probate. It guarantees that you’re going to get on that raft.

So estate planning, good estate planning is all about saying, “Well, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. I don’t want to get on that raft. I don’t want to go across the river on a raft. Instead, what I want to do is I want to build a bridge. Maybe I want to build a couple of bridges.” And the idea is that when you die if you have a bridge, you can avoid this, all this crap. You can avoid all the nonsense and you can get assets from your name to that other person’s name just like that. Super fast. So let’s talk about what bridges we could build.


One bridge here is going to be called the contract bridge. Well, what is a contract bridge? That sounds exciting. Sounds exciting to me. Anyway, a contract bridges simply like an IRA or life insurance. Life insurance is a contract. An annuity is a contract in IRA is a contract. A 401k is a contract. And in that contract, you can name beneficiaries directly. And you know what happens when you named those beneficiaries directly? It goes right across the bridge. Don’t stop. Don’t worry about probate. You avoid it all together.


What’s the other bridge a lot of people build? How about that, a trust bridge. Primary reason to have a trust is to avoid the probate river. That’s a primary reason. A trust avoids probate and it’s private. If you have a couple of bridges, a contract bridge, a trust bridge, you can get literally all of your assets across that river and avoid probate altogether. Good estate planning avoids the river. Bad estate planning, oops, we got caught.

Centennial Advisors