What Probate Has to Do With You

Probate is a court-supervised process where a decedent’s will is validated, an executor or personal representative is appointed, and the decedent’s affairs are wrapped up – all under the watchful eyes of the probate court.

Surprisingly, individuals with large and small estates die without a will.

Dying without a will does not make financial sense, but many people avoid estate planning because they are uncomfortable contemplating their own mortality, or because they are young and believe they have “plenty of time” before they need to think about estate planning.

Probate for Intestate Estates

When a person dies without a will, it is called dying intestate. If the decedent owned real estate, such as a home or if they have any measureable assets, their estate will still go through probate.

Instead of the decedent having a will where he or she named an executor, the court will appoint a personal representative, who will be in charge of paying off the decedent’s debts, paying taxes and distributing what’s left to the decedent’s heirs according to state law.

Personal representatives carry out the same duties as executors who are named in a will, only they’re appointed by the probate court instead of the decedent. Some states call executors “personal representatives.”

Estate Planning Gives You Control

If you have a substantial estate, you have two options: 1) you can forgo estate planning and have your state’s intestate succession laws determine how your estate will be distributed (which will be overseen by the probate court) or 2) you can meet with an estate planning attorney and decide how, when, and to whom your estate will be distributed.

If you want to avoid the costs of probate or at the very least minimize them, your attorney can help you arrange your assets so many of them pass outside of probate. Such tools include beneficiary designations, trusts, and owning property in joint tenancy.

When you create an estate plan, you are in control; you decide how to arrange your property so it is subject to probate or so it passes outside of it.

If you so choose, strategies can be employed to reduce the costs of probate while ensuring that heirs receive their inheritance faster. You will need legal counsel to help you accomplish this.

Learn more about tailoring an estate plan that suits you by contacting an estate planning attorney.

Categories: Estate Planning, Probate