1. What is Probate?
- It’s a legal process that ensures the belongings of the decedent are distributed according to their wishes and that all monies owed to the government or to creditors are paid in full.
2. Who initiates this process?
- The executor of the will is responsible for initiating the probate process and for retaining an attorney. If there is no will, then the probate court will generally name a close relative to take on this responsibility.
3. What happens during the Probate process?
- A representative, either the executor named in the will or an individual named by the probate court, will be appointed to disperse real and personal property. This individual also collects debts owed to the deceased.
- The will is validated by the probate court. If there is no will, then the probate court designates a legal heir (usually a close relative) to serve as administrator.
- A list of assets from the estate are presented to the probate court.
- Beneficiaries named in the will, or heirs-at-law if there is no will, are notified that the probate process is taking place.
- Creditors are notified of the proceedings so they can file claims for any debts owed to them.
- State and federal taxes are paid from the estate.
- Title to decedent’s property, such as real estate, bonds and stocks, is cleared so that the property can be passed onto beneficiaries or sold.
4. What is not subject to probate?
- Jointly held property. The property automatically passes on to the surviving owners. However, this only delays probate until the owner dies. Non-taxable gifts made during the deceased’s lifetime that do not exceed $13,000.
5. How long will the probate process take?
- The probate process can take anywhere from 8 to 18 months depending on the size of the estate.
6. When will our family receive the property?
- When all the probate paperwork has been approved by the court, taxes have been paid, creditors’ debts have been satisfied and title to real estate, stocks and bonds have been cleared. The court will enter an order of distribution, allowing assets to be transferred and checks to be written.
7. When is Probate not necessary?
- When the estate of the deceased is valued at less than $100,000, and when the property is jointly owned.
8. Do I need an attorney?
- Retaining a lawyer to help you through the probate process is recommended as each state has its own probate practices. The legal experts at Elder Law Services can help you with this and any other legal services you may need.
- Our experienced and caring staff can assist you in painlessly wrapping up your loved one’s estate and making certain that the property is distributed according to their wishes.