Probate has gotten a bad reputation lately, with lots of so-called experts touting ways to avoid it. Probate is far from the big, bad monster it's portrayed to be, and in some cases there is simply no replacement for it. To learn more about this important part of estate planning, read on.
1. In most cases, there is no getting around probate. If a will is located, it will very likely need to be probated. If no will is found, known as dying intestate, the estate will still likely face probate. Each state has guidelines for how to proceed with probate when no will is found.
2. While probate is likely inevitable, that doesn't mean that you can't take other measures to keep some estate property out of probate. Why would you want to do that? Well, probate can take some time to be complete and makes the contents of the will open to the public. You should consider using other estate planning instruments like revocable trusts, deeds, and account designations to keep some property out of probate entirely and allow a quicker transfer to beneficiaries.
3. Probate doesn't just deal with property; one of the main functions of probate is to deal with the debts of the estate. Once the will is filed in probate court, a notice is placed in a local publication inviting anyone who wishes to make a claim on the estate to come forward within a certain period of time. Probate helps ensure that the bills of the estate are dutifully paid, particularly taxes. In fact, probate cannot be closed until the taxes (income, property, etc) of the deceased are fully satisfied.
4. In most cases, probate will appoint a personal representative to attend to the estate, unless the will has already done so. This person (also known as an executor) has the responsibility of taking care of certain duties while probate is proceeding through the court. Some of these duties include:
- Paying the bills of the estate
- Keeping up with maintenance and overseeing the home and other property
- Performing an inventory of of the property of the estate
- Having pieces of property, like real estate, valued by an appraiser.
- Ensuring that bequeathed property is distributed according to the wishes of the deceased.
Probate is about more than just making sure everyone has their inheritance. It serves as a legal way of finalizing an estate and closing the affairs of the deceased. To learn more about probate, speak to a probate or estate attorney or visit a website like https://www.rmstoneattorney.com/.