Monday, April 8, 2013

Understanding Probate and Estate Planning

Everyone has heard the term probate but not everyone knows that this term means. Probate is quite literally the process your family members will go through with the government after you have passed away. This is the transfer of your assets and finances to your chosen beneficiary or beneficiaries. The executor of the will is the one in charge of following this process through thoroughly and making sure that your wishes are carried out as clearly stated in your will. Your executor can be anyone, not necessarily a relative and they handle your vehicles and houses, everything that is left to them.
In the case that an executor was not named in a will or a will was never named than a court hearing will often name a relative to be the executor in order to get through the probate process as simply as possible. This person is not random but often the closest living relative or the person who received the most in the will should there be one that was written.
There are several different phases within probate. First, the executor or named administrator is required to prove the validity of the will to a probate court before anything can begin. Next the step is for the executor to provide statements of the deceased debts and assets as well as the list of beneficiaries in the will. From here the creditors will be notified of this death and they will then have only 6months to collect any debts that are owed to them, should there be any.
If money is owed it must be collected from the estate, not from the beneficiaries who inherit it. What this means is that the beneficiaries will not be able to inherit their money until the creditors receive what is owed to them. Whatever is left of the estate will then be distributed to the beneficiaries.
There are cases where probate court is not necessary to take care of a person's will. If a person has very few possessions and money to distribute the court is not necessary and the beneficiaries distribute the will without the law to guide them. Also, if anything is jointly owned, for example a husband and wife, the other person will get everything by default.
When people write their wills they almost never consider the act of probate and often do not even really understand how probate works. Probate should be part of your research and understanding before you begin writing your will and/or your estate. This is a very confusing stage in life that should be understood as best as possible for everyone. Probate can be a very pain staking cycle for your loved ones left behind and when planning your estate your lawyer can help you do what you can to avoid probate court for your executor.

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