When a loved one passes away, the family is left to settle the decedent’s finances, property, and other belongings—usually by going through the probate process. In this article, we will be reviewing what probate is, how it works, and why many people prefer to avoid the probate process altogether.
What is Probate?
Also referred to as estate administration, probate is a legal procedure whereby a will is validated through the court system. It is also the process in which a decedent’s property is transferred to their beneficiaries or heirs, in accordance with their will or state intestacy laws—whichever is applicable.
How Does the Probate Process Work?
After someone passes away, the person named as executor in the decedent’s will typically files papers in the local probate court. The executor is then tasked with proving the validity of the decedent’s will. A list of the decedent’s assets, debts, and beneficiaries is also presented to the court. After which, relatives—as well as creditors—are notified of the decedent’s death.
The executor is typically in charge of managing the decedent’s assets during the probate process—including selling the decedent’s assets and settling financial obligations as needed.
For example, if the decedent’s will contains a number of cash bequests but their assets consist mostly of rare collectibles, the collectibles might have to be appraised and sold for cash. Similarly, if the decedent has a number of outstanding debts, then their executor might have to sell a portion (or all) of the decedent’s assets to pay the debts.
Once all of the debts and taxes have been paid, the probate court can then grant the executor authority to distribute the decedent’s remaining assets to the beneficiaries named in the will.
What Happens if I Die Without a Will?
Typically, when someone dies without a will, that person is deemed to have died intestate. An intestate estate is subject under the laws of intestacy, and must go through the probate process in order for the decedent’s assets to be distributed according to state laws. However, going through the traditional probate may not be necessary if the decedent has less than $100,000 in assets (a streamlined option of probate may be available in these situations).
Why Are People Avoiding Probate?
People would rather avoid probate because it can be a fairly long and arduous process that rarely benefits a decedent’s beneficiaries. Probate can be a long and expensive process. Creating an estate plan that avoids probate will make things much easier for your beneficiaries after you pass away.
If you have questions about the probate process—or if you would like to set up an estate plan that avoids probate—give us a call now. We can help answer any questions you may have, or help prepare an estate plan for you to make sure that things are as simple as possible before and after you pass away.