The probate process does not have to be scary.
Few Americans understand probate.
In fact, some adults are not even aware of its existence.
Perhaps this is because probate highlights an unpleasant reality.
It reminds people of their own mortality.
According to a recent WTOP article titled “Everything You Need to Know About Probate,” the probate process is unavoidable.
What is it?
Probate is how the court supervises the settling of an estate after someone has died.
The court validates the last will and testament, ensures debts are paid, and makes sure assets are distributed to the heirs according to the last will and testament.
Depending on the size of the estate and the quality of the estate plan, probate can be simple or complex.
The probate judge, creditors, beneficiaries, and executors are all involved in the administration of the estate.
State law demands any assets not transferred by contract law, trust law, or state titling law must be overseen by the probate process.
What does this mean?
Assets distributed through a last will and testament are overseen by the probate court.
What happens if a person dies without a last will and testament?
Assets held individually without a beneficiary designation will be distributed by the probate court according to the intestacy laws of the state where the decedent was a resident.
What is involved in the probate process?
First, the last will and testament must be submitted to the court.
A probate attorney can get waivers signed by the heirs, notarize the consent, and file the documents with the probate court.
After the last will and testament has been reviewed and declared valid, an attorney and executor will file additional documents with the court.
These may include a certified copy of the death certificate, names and address for heirs, information regarding known creditors, and an inventory of the assets subject to probate.
Creditors will be paid before distributions of remaining assets are made to heirs.
The estate is considered settled after all estate debts, taxes, and expenses have been paid and the executors request the court to close the estate.
If you would like to minimize the exposure of your estate to the probate process, an experienced estate planning attorney can help you create a revocable trust trust-based plan or avoid it through other alternative means.
Reference: WTOP (Aug. 31, 20211) “Everything You Need to Know About Probate”