Wills and Estate Planning

Wills and estate planning are designed to distribute the assets of the estate owner to the heirs and beneficiaries while reducing the time and cost of the probate court process. Wills and estate planning are a crucial part of any well-designed financial plan.

When a person passes, their estate is transferred into probate court for settlement. If the estate owner dies with a last will and testament, the estate owner died testate. The executor named in the will takes over the duties assigned to him/her by the estate owner as per the will and the probate court. If the estate owner dies without a last will and testament, the estate owner died intestate and the probate court will appoint an administrator to the estate. If the estate owner dies testate but failed to name an executor in the will, the probate court will assign an administrator to act as executor to the estate.

The duties of the executor or administrator are as follows:

  • Provide proof that the last will and testament is valid and legal.
  • Take inventory of all the assets, they must be identified and catalogued.
  • Notify all the people identified in the will.
  • Notify all the creditors of the estate to the passing of the estate owner.
  • Appraise all the property and assets of the estate.
  • Pay any outstanding debts and/or taxes due on the estate.
  • The executor must distribute the remaining assets according to the will (testate).
  • The administrator must distribute the remaining assets according to the probate laws of the particular jurisdiction (intestate).

The executer/administrator is in charge of managing the estate while it is in the process of probate. The probate process can take anywhere from a few months to over a year. The executer/administrator may have to liquidate some of the property or assets to settle debts or to honor requests in the will. The probate court has to grant the executor/administrator permission to settle any claims against the estate and distribute the remaining funds and assets to the heirs and beneficiaries. The court will have to approve any settlements if any disputes arise or if there are any inconsistencies in the will.

The executor will allocate any remaining assets to beneficiaries named in the will. If there is no will, the administrator must allocate any remaining assets according to the intestacy laws of the state. The administrator/executor must act according to the fiduciary duties assigned by the particular jurisdiction and treat all beneficiaries fairly. If the administrator/executor fails in the role assigned to him/her, the parties with interests in the estate can petition the probate court to have the administrator/executor removed. The administrator/executor could face liability charges if they cause losses or harm due to mismanagement of the estate.

With proper allocation of assets in wills and estate planning your family can enjoy more of your assets and spend less time in probate court. Contact a wills and estate-planning lawyer today to plan the distribution of your assets.

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