Estate Planning and Probate

Estate planning and probate go hand-in-hand and work together to distribute the assets, property, and funds left behind by an estate owner to the heirs and beneficiaries of the estate.  It is impossible to avoid the probate process completely, even if the estate is accounted for with proper estate planning and completely distributed in a valid Last Will and Testament.  However, it is possible to limit or reduce the time an estate spends in probate court and thereby reducing the fees and taxes associated with the process of probate.  Estate planning and family probate are subject to the local inheritance laws of the jurisdiction where the assets are held or where the estate owner’s primary residence is located.

Function of Probate

The probate process is the legal procedures in place by local laws to settle an estate after the death of the estate owner.  Estate planning and probate court work together to ensure the process is fair and absolute.  These are the primary tools for settling claims against the estate and distributing the assets to the heirs and beneficiaries of the estate.  Probate court is used to confirm and validate a last will and testament of the late estate owner.

Estate planning and probate help to protect and execute the directives and request of the estate owner as per his/her instruction.  If the sate owner died testate, with a proper will in place, the executer named in the will sees to it that the grantor’s requests are honored.  If the estate owner died intestate, without a valid will, the probate court will appoint an administrator to oversee the distribution of assets, pay outstanding taxes, and settle claims against the estate according to local intestacy laws.

Elements of the Probate Process

Steps involved in probate include:

  • The court must recognize the executor named in the will or appoint an administrator to oversee the probate process
  • The personal representative of the estate (executor or administrator) must validate the will before the court
  • The personal representative must itemize and inventory all of the estate owner’s property and assets
  • All beneficiaries and heirs have to be notified and made aware that they are named in the will or eligible for inheritance
  • All creditors to the estate and the deceased have to notified of the estate owner’s passing
  • Any outstanding debts or taxes must be paid
  • The remaining property, assets, and funds are distributed to the beneficiaries according to the will or per the local intestacy laws

 

Proper estate planning and probate court will work to guarantee that the last wishes of the state owner are respected and observed.  It is possible for some assets to bypass the probate process completely.  Assets that pass to named beneficiaries contractually do not have to go before probate court.  These can include life insurance benefits, bank accounts, co-owned assets, property held in right of survivorship, or property or assets held in a living trust.

  • Estate planning and probate can be complicated and intricate. If you have any questions regarding estate planning and probate, contact a probate attorney today to get informed and educated answers to your estate planning and probate questions.
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