Probate: What You Need To Know

When you start planning your estate, one thing you need to understand is probate. Probate is a legal process that occurs after your passing. Knowing how the process works may have an impact on how you end up planning for your beneficiaries. Here are some things you should know.

Probate Defined

Probate is a legal process that has to do with how your estate is distributed after you pass away. During the process, your debts are paid by your estate, and anything left is dispersed as you wished according to your will.

Steps of the Probate Process

Probate is an involved process with several steps. You have the option to name an executor in your will. If you did not specify one, an executor is chosen by the court. Next, the will has to be proven valid. This is done differently as the laws will vary by state. It generally requires witness signatures and notarization.

Once the will is validated, your property and assets are inventoried. Any property is appraised and the creditors are paid at this time. Afterward, your beneficiaries are given their part of your estate.

If you did not leave a will but still have an estate, probate will determine who receives it. This is the time when individuals have the chance to challenge the will. The court will look at any challenges and determine where it will go.

The probate process can take several months to complete. However, complex probate processes can take years when a lot of money or disputes are involved.

The Costs of Probate

Probate is not a free process. The court and attorneys will assess fees. Most times, the deceased leaves room in the estate to pay for the fees. If there is not money earmarked for probate in the will, the executor will have to pay the fees.

Probate is an important process that almost all wills have to endure. However, if you wish to skip probate, you have the option to place your estate in a living trust, payable upon your death to those you choose.

One thing to keep in mind is that not all states require an attorney to go through the probate process. However, a litigation attorney will ultimately benefit your family once your will enters probate. You may want to set your  beneficiaries with a probate attorney as you set up your will so they do not have to worry about it when the time comes.