Close X

Read Our Blog

What is Probate and How Can I Avoid It?

Posted by Lizette Sundvick | Mar 11, 2024 | 0 Comments

Man thinking on couch

Do you know the impact on you and your loved ones if your estate has to go through probate or guardianship court? Probate is a legal process where the court appoints an executor to administer the estate and distribute assets. In the case of a disability, an estate can go through guardianship court, where a guardian is appointed to handle the financial affairs and healthcare decisions of the disabled person. These court processes can happen when someone doesn't previously have a trust with their assets coordinated properly with it. They are lengthy, expensive, stressful, and...avoidable.

Back when I started my practice in 1993, there were about 840,000 people in Clark County. We had one probate commissioner and a presiding judge in the district court who was appointed probate cases. At that time, probate wasn't such a long, drawn-out process. You could open a probate matter in about six weeks and depending on the complexity or estate amount, you could be done within a couple of months to a year.

Today, there are 2.4 million people in Clark County. With the rising number of retirees and baby boomers, the caseload has significantly increased to the point where cases are not just given to one presiding judge. Now, probate matters are divided between all of our criminal and civil judges. And even then, they cannot keep up with the demand. Scheduling a hearing to open or close an estate now takes five months for each, plus the notice to creditor period of 60 or 90 days. The kicker is that if the probate commissioner's office requests additional information before the hearing, the case will have to be rescheduled another five months out if the information cannot be provided by the day before the hearing. That means even a simple case for an estate under $100k will take a minimum of five months (versus six weeks when I first started). General probate cases now take an average of 1-2 years and cost around $8-15k for an estate of more than $200k. If there are any complications, the case could stretch on for many more years and continue to rack up costs.

All this means time, money, and stress for the loved ones having to undergo this process. The good news is all of this can be avoided.

How? By having a fully funded and comprehensive Estate Plan. Everyone should have one – you don't have to be a millionaire. The main reasons are simple: an Estate Plan lets you choose who takes care of your financial and healthcare decisions in case you become disabled and how, when, and to whom your assets are distributed after you pass. If you do not have the appropriate documents in place, the State of Nevada has laws regarding who takes over, who makes decisions for you, or where your assets go.

Beyond the pragmatic reasons, an Estate Plan gives you the opportunity to craft your legacy. Helping clients create the legacy they want to leave behind is my passion. We tailor our clients' Estate Plans to their individual situations, specific goals, family dynamics, and asset diversification. Everybody is different, and your Estate Plan should cover all your assets and reflect your particular wishes. You get to answer the BIG question: What do you want your legacy, i.e., your last message to your loved ones, to be?

Once you have an Estate Plan, you will want to review and update your plan regularly, especially if there are any law changes, births, deaths, marriages, divorces, or significant changes in your financial status. Your beneficiary designations need to be kept updated, your assets must be coordinated with your trust, and your Estate Plan must match your overall desires in order to avoid probate and guardianship court, and give what you have to whom you want, the way you want, when you want. By having a properly maintained, solid Estate Plan, you give yourself peace of mind knowing you and your family are taken care of. It ensures your loved ones will go through the transition of your disability or passing with the greatest possible ease, not stuck in probate court with unnecessary delays. 

If you have any questions or would like to start your own Estate Plan, I offer complimentary consultations to new clients.

If you already have an Estate Plan in place, let's do a thorough checkup to identify any possible gaps in light of your current goals or any law changes. Feel free to reach out to schedule a consultation. It would be my pleasure to help you and your loved ones avoid the probate process and secure your legacy.

About the Author

Lizette Sundvick

Lizette B. Sundvick is one of the longest practicing female attorneys in Las Vegas, Nevada. She has been a member of WealthCounsel, LLC since 2002 and has received training from various legal and coaching organizations, such as WealthCounsel, LLC, the Nevada WealthCounsel Forum (Founding President – 2009-2012), National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys,...


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Wonderful to Work With

“Lizette and the staff are wonderful to work with and always give us excellent, on target advice. The sense of protection and confidence we have with the Sundvick Legacy Center allows us to relax and enjoy life.”
- Shirley & Terry L.

Professional, but Caring

“I appreciate Lizette's professional, but caring support through my Mom's last years and passing and also the help with my own trust. My experience with Sundvick Legacy services was very positive in every aspect.”
- Judy A.