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What is Probate?

Probate is the legal process of administering a deceased person’s estate. If you have a will, probate will involve proving that your will is legally valid and authentic, as well as executing your instructions and paying any applicable taxes.

After an asset holder dies, the court then appoints either an executor (named in the will) or an administrator (if no will was left) to administer the process of probate. This involves collecting the deceased person’s assets to pay any liabilities remaining on their estate, then the remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries.

Legitimizing a will by the local probate court.

The judge needs to know this document is the last will of the deceased, review the inventory of the estate, and confirm who will administer the estate proceeds. This is referred to as executing a will. The executor, or a lawyer representing the executor, files the appropriate forms and handles all court matters.

It could take a while. A will is not legal until it’s probated. This can take anywhere between 6 months to 3 years. This allows a living heir to challenge the current will, the probate court to confirm there are no errors in the documentation, and any creditors to make claims against the estate.

Every asset must be accounted for. Assets aren’t just the more common possessions, such as a house, car, and bank account, they also include any savings bonds, stock certificates, and personal property. Assets that are jointly owned or having at least one designated beneficiary will avoid the probate process.

So, how do I avoid probate?

  1. Create a living trust.
    This is a legal entity that you identify to pass all your assets to upon your death. It’s important to note that even if you acquire property or additional assets after creating a trust, they can be titled to be part of the trust. Using this type of trust in combination with one or more techniques for any assets not transferred into the trust means no probate assets.

2. Add a joint owner.
A joint owner can be added to a bank account or to a real estate deed, which will avoid probate as long as it’s clear that the account is jointly owned with rights of survivorship and not as tenants in common.

3. Use of beneficiary designations.
Beneficiary destinations used on life insurance, bank, and investment accounts are referred to as payable on death (POD) accounts. Several states allow you to designate beneficiaries for your real estate by transferring death deeds, beneficiary deeds, or affidavits.

What works for you will depend on your financial situation and your family dynamics. Creating peace of mind for you and your loved ones is priceless. Minimizing costs associated with probate will certainly help. When you’re in need of an experienced and trusted estate attorney, don’t wait, give us a call.

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