When planning an estate, one tip that people hear over and over is to avoid probate. Probate can be a lengthy and potentially expensive process of distributing property after someone has passed away. It can also be a stressful time for the family of the person who passed away, which is why many people look for ways to avoid it.
However, there are benefits to probate, such as protection of heirs and legally-supervised distribution of assets. In some cases, probate actually cannot be avoided or it may be beneficial to go through the process. Once you know what is involved in the process, it will seem less daunting and you can better assess whether or not to avoid it in your estate plan.
What happens during probate?
A number of things need to be sorted out during the probate process. These include:
• Proving validity of the will
• Collecting all property
• Paying off debts and taxes on the estate
• Settling disputes
• Distributing property to heirs
Sometimes probate is contested, meaning an heir or someone else directly affected by the estate plan, is questioning the will's validity. In these cases, a legal proceeding must occur to prove validity. This can lengthen the probate process, but it can also bring the peace of mind after the contestation that the estate is secured and the proceedings are legally valid.
Who is in charge of handling the estate?
Probate proceedings require an executor for the deceased person, and they are appointed in the person's will. The executor has a large responsibility, as they manage the person's assets, ensure the person's final wishes are fulfilled correctly, and make sure all debt and taxes are paid off.
If no executor was named in the will or the person dies without a will in place, court will choose an administrator for the deceased person's assets. This is why it is important to name an executor. Choose someone trustworthy and responsible who will attend to all final duties and keep court proceedings in line with your wishes for the estate.