Probate is the legal process of the distribution of a deceased person’s estate to the heirs and beneficiaries, as handled by specialized probate attorneys.
It is done so according to the decedent’s last will. If the decedent is without a last will, then distribution will proceed according to the state law.
Each state has specific laws or “probate codes” to probate an estate. State laws also determine what happens if a decedent dies without a will.
What If The Deceased Left No Will?
If the deceased left no will, the court-supervised probate process would determine how to distribute the assets.
The court process allows individuals to challenge the will, for the court to decide the appropriate beneficiary of the decedent’s assets.
How Long Will The Probate Process Take?
As per the American Bar Association, the probate process usually takes any time from six to nine months from the date of the opening of a probate case with the court.
The duration varies depending on the court and if there are any disputes over the legality of the will and if individuals contest the distribution of assets. Learn more about the process of probate below.
What Goes On In A Probate Hearing?
- If the decedent was not able to appoint anyone to execute the will, then the court will appoint an executor. The executor is usually the next of kin. This person will oversee the process and settle the estate.
- The judge will check the will for validity and authenticate it. The will should meet state requirements for signatures, witnesses, and notaries.
- The executor will then locate the assets and perform an inventory of the deceased person’s property before distribution.
- Next is to determine the death values through statements and appraisals.
- The personal representative will identify all the decedent’s creditors and notify them of the decedent’s passing. He or she might need to publish notice of the person’s death in the local newspaper, allowing the creditors time to make claims against the estate. The representative has the right to reject claims deemed not valid.
- The representative will then make sure to settle the decedent’s bills, debts, and taxes. Any creditor’s claims can be brought to the court to be decided on by the judge.
- The personal representative will file the decedent’s final personal income tax returns and determine if the estate is liable for any inheritance taxes. If this is true, then the representative will have to file tax returns for these as well and settle it within nine months of the decedent’s death. He or she will also pay any taxes that need to be collected from estate funds and liquidating assets if necessary.
- Finally, the distribution of the estate to the beneficiaries. When all of the above conditions are satisfied, the distribution of the remaining assets according to the decedent’s wishes or according to state law will proceed.
How Much Will It Cost?
The executor is responsible for settling the costs such as court fees if the estate cannot settle the amount. With a living trust, you can reduce the time it takes to settle an estate in the event of your passing.
Properties That Can Bypass a Probate
Some types of assets are non-probate assets and can bypass the court. These are things such as life insurance policies and real estate held in joint names.
It is not always necessary for an estate to go through this process after your death if you invest in estate planning. Distribution of the assets to the heirs promptly helps your family focus on grieving for their loss.
Avoid A Lengthy Probate Process By Hiring An Estate Planning Lawyer
An experienced estate lawyer can be an invaluable asset, helping you take the necessary steps to ensure proper distribution of your estate after your passing.
What’s more, an estate lawyer can help you sort out complex family or financial situations. Some examples of which are second marriages, several businesses, and estates in different states.
Estate planning is serious business. A wrong word or a missing signature can change the intent of your will.
If you think that you can do everything online, think again. You wouldn’t want your family to deal with a will that isn’t legally valid.
Your family will then spend thousands of dollars working with an estate planning lawyer just to fix the mistakes in your will.
If this sounds like something important to you, call a competent, local probate attorney or estate planning attorney now and manage your estate the proper and legal way.