Probate can be defined as the court-supervised procedure of validating the will of a person who is no more. The process involves identifying the final assets of the decedent, paying the decedent’s last or outstanding debts, and distributing the deceased’s estate to the right beneficiaries or heirs. Here, it is important to note that probate laws can hugely differ from one state to another. Nevertheless, the procedure remains the same everywhere, with attorneys doing the majority of the heavy lifting.
The probate procedure can completely hold up the process of distributing the estate of the deceased for more than a year. However, with proper estate planning, you can easily help the beneficiaries in avoiding this delay. Financial advisors can be of good help in planning the estate and managing wealth at the same time. Revocable living trusts can also help in securing properties from probate. But these are not the only type of trust available. There are different steps that can ease the probate procedure. But before that, it is important to know when probate is necessary.
When is the Probate Procedure Necessary?
Probate is not always vital for transferring property. In many states, there are laws indicating that properties valued under a specific amount can easily pass on to the heirs without the probate process or through its simplified version. However, if the estate exceeds this specific value, it becomes necessary to initiate probate. If a person expires without leaving behind a will, he or she is considered to be intestate.
Such situations are handled through the use of intestate succession laws in different states. These laws mandate where the inheritances need to go depending on the family relations. For instance, intestate succession generally consists of parents, spouses, siblings, cousins, and grandparents.
Some accounts like IRAs or Individual Retirement Accounts and 401K plans, along with pensions featuring listed heirs, do not require going through the probate procedure. The same applies to insurance plans as well. Such funds get directly transferred to the designated beneficiary after the death of the policy or account holder.
Filing and Validating a Will
Laws existing in different states require the executor designated in the deceased’s will to file a will with the probate court just after the death of the testator. It is also the responsibility of the executor to file a petition and death certificate for opening probate at the same time.
The next step is where the judge at the probate court determines if the will is valid legally or not. This generally involves a court hearing where all the beneficiaries or heirs listed in the deceased’s will have the authority to check the document and object or accept their role in the same. It is the court that decides the next step forward in situations when the will of the testator is contested by the beneficiaries.
Validation of the Will by the Court is Very Important
It is the duty of the probate court to figure out whether the will left behind by the deceased is valid or not. In the majority of the cases, there are self-providing affidavits that help in creating and finalizing wills. The grantor of the will, along with the witnesses, signs off on these. These documents generally hold sufficient weight for the court to jumpstart the probate procedure. The moment this happens, the executor of the estate receives and even signs the letters of administration or authority.
The signing of the letters of authority means that the executor is legally agreeing to take up the probate procedure. He or she will take care of the matters involving the deceased’s estate. There are some states where the executors need to post a bond or a certain insurance plan protecting the beneficiaries in times when the executor, either intentionally or unintentionally, makes an expensive mistake during the probate procedure.
Identifying Estate Assets for the Probate Procedure
It is the job of the executor to determine all the assets of the decedent along with their proper value. The executor needs to carry out this job responsibly. They should dive into the investment account statements, banking statements, and the tax documents of the deceased.
In some states, it is necessary for the executor to offer the court a document. It details the assets of the decedent, their value, and the notice on how the value has been calculated.
Following the above steps religiously can make it easy for the executor and the other concerned individuals to carry out the probate procedure without any form of complication.