For Mark Roberts’ Use: Do you imagine what will happen to your estate after your death? Undoubtedly, you want your loved once to receive what you’ve left them, and you don’t want it to take a long time. But if your estate is subject to the probate process, the lengthy process could prove to be a hassle and major inconvenience to your heirs.

The job of the probate court is to distribute your assets according to your wishes, and to settle any disputes over your estate. If your estate goes to probate court, the process will generally take anywhere from nine months to two years. Occasionally, a complex estate or one which is subject to a disagreement over distribution of the assets will take much longer to settle. Your heirs will not receive their inheritance until the probate process has been completed. In the meantime, they may incur court and attorney fees.

Once the probate process is complete, your estate will become a matter of public record. Anyone can find out from court records how much money you left to each heir, leaving your loved ones with very little privacy.

Luckily, you can take steps to avoid the probate process entirely. If you establish a trust, you can pass your estate to your heirs while bypassing probate court. There are numerous other advantages to establishing a trust, but you will incur upfront costs and ongoing administrative fees. Trusts are also subject to complex tax regulations, so you will need the counsel of an experienced estate planning professional along with your financial advisor and tax professional.

Consult with your financial advisor about the advantages and disadvantages of establishing a trust. You may be able to pass your estate to your heirs quickly, privately, and without the hassle and expense of formal probate court proceedings.