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Probate Basics

In today’s world, people are busier than ever with their personal and professional lives.

Because of this, important things fall by the wayside, including planning their estate. Even if an individual is in need of a bail bondsman to help them be released from jail, it’s still important to not forget crucial personal details as ensuring their property will be distributed as they wish upon their death. However, while many people know how they want property disbursed upon their passing, few take the time to make their intentions known to an attorney. As a result, homes, money, and other possessions may be transferred in ways they would not approve of, yet without a will there will be little if anything that can be done. For those who don’t want this to happen to them, here are some basics of the probate process.

A Court-Supervised Process

Created to sort out the transfer of a person’s property after their death, the probate process is meant to act as a safeguard to ensure the wishes of the deceased are carried out in a proper manner. In most states, many types of properties are subject to the probate process, such as life insurance polices, bank accounts, personal property, and real estate. Known as “probating a will,” this court process begins with a person, usually the executor of the estate, showing the court that the decedent followed all legally-recognized steps when drafting their will.

Avoiding Probate

While most people choose to set up their estates through the usual probate process, many people opt to avoid the probate process altogether. There are three ways property can be transferred upon a person’s death that will bypass the probate process, but choosing which ones to use depends upon an individual’s specific legal situation. Whether they choose to transfer property through joint ownership with rights of survivorship, revocable trusts, or gifts, it’s critical to get legal advice to make sure there are no questions or problems once a person is deceased and property is set to be transferred.

Contested or Uncontested?

When it comes to the probate process, it can be contested or uncontested. If the process is contested, it is usually due to one of several reasons. Most of the time, heirs who feel as if they did not get their fair share of the estate will contest the proceedings, and will use a number of different arguments in an attempt to convince the court they deserve a bigger share. Some of the most common claims made by heirs include their belief that the decedent was mentally incompetent when drafting their will, that they were improperly influenced when making their gifts, or that they failed to follow proper legal guidelines when drafting their will. While there are cases that are heavily contested, the vast majority of probate cases go uncontested.

Probating an Estate

Once an executor or court-appointed administrator has started to probate an estate, there are several steps that take place. Along with collecting all the decedent’s property, an executor also ensures all debts and taxes owed by the estate are paid. And to finalize the estate settlement, the executor also helps to settle any disputes, collect all rights to income, and distributes property to its rightful heirs. In rare situations, the decedent’s wishes may be overridden by the court. This usually occurs when creditors may have claims on an estate, or when a spouse is due a certain amount of property.

Probate Costs

As stated earlier, there are certain costs associated with probating an estate. These include attorney fees and costs, court costs, and fees of a personal representative if they are needed to probate the estate. In most cases, all of these costs are paid out of the assets from the estate.

The Importance of a Will

Whether a person is single, married, or feels as if they don’t have enough assets to consider an estate, a will can still be very important. By utilizing this legal tool, a person can have a formal legal process that allows them to control how their assets will be distributed upon their passing. In doing so, unnecessary financial and emotional problems for friends and family can be avoided.

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