Probate is designed to create a “final accounting” upon death. It is the legal process of “proving up” a Will, or verifying that a Will is valid, takes place in one of two instances. First, if a person dies leaving behind a Will, or second, if the deceased has died intestate, that is, has not left behind a Will or estate plan of any type or the Will cannot be found.
Depending on the complexity of the estate and the thoroughness with which accounting has been carried out before death, probate can either be a relatively simple task or a daunting one. Be aware that no matter the situation, probate may be a lengthy process often taking months or possibly years to play out, and one which may take a considerable amount of an executor’s time.
To summarize the process, probate can be broken into six basic steps:
- Validation of the Will
- Appoint executor
- Inventory estate
- Pay claims against the estate
- Pay estate taxes
- Distribute remaining assets
Each of these steps involve legal documentation and validation, and more importantly, proper accounting each step of the way.
Probate begins and ends with the special Probate Court set up in each state to handle estate issues. (Sometimes known as the Orphan’s or Chancery Court in certain states.) All actions taken regarding the estate are accountable to this court, and must be noted and reported regularly. This court is staffed by special judges qualified to oversee estate resolution issues.
If you are a relative of the deceased, this is simple in most states. To transfer the title of vehicles owned by the deceased, simply take the death certificate to the DMV, and perform the transfer, paying whatever fees they require. If not a relative, bringing along the will and or any trust documents indicating your status should be sufficient.
Social Security will continue to send out benefit checks until they are notified of an individual’s death. The executor/spouse/trustee should contact the local Social Security Administration office and notify them of the death, or if a benefit check is received, send it back with a letter notifying them. This is important. If checks continue to be deposited, the recipient can incur liability later when Social Security learns of the recipient’s death.
When an estate must be probated, the probate process could take around a year or longer and the costs could equal a substantial percentage of the total value of the estate. Because of the high costs and the long wait, the probate process can affect families waiting for an inheritance in many undesirable ways.
Family members may find it stressful to go to court as they cope with the grief of a loved one. They may be concerned the executor of an estate is not fulfilling his obligations to keep property safe and transfer it quickly to new owners. They may also be in financial trouble if they were dependent upon the income of the deceased and they cannot access estate assets because the estate is tied up in the probate process.
Many people will choose to make a comprehensive estate plan to avoid the probate process so their families are able to inherit more quickly without the costs, stress and delays that are associated with probate. Zimmer Law Firm can help.
After a death when the deceased left a will, it is common to question whether a will must be probated or not. In most cases, the probate process is necessary. However, the full probate process may not need to take place if the estate meets certain conditions. An estate can be released from administration if the value of the assets is low and/or if certain other conditions are m. For example, the full probate process is not necessary if the value of all of the estate assets is $35,000 or less.
If the value of the assets in the estate are $100,000 or less, the assets were left to a surviving spouse and the deceased left instructions, the estate can be released from administration so the full probate process isn’t needed. Finally, if the deceased is survived by a spouse, there’s no will and intestacy law says the surviving spouse should inherit everything, the estate can be released from administration provided the deceased person’s assets were valued at $100,000 or less.
You may wish to take steps to try to keep your family out of probate court so they can inherit more quickly, avoid the information about their inheritance becoming public record, and keep more of the assets that the deceased has left behind, rather than having to lose a substantial portion of their inheritance to the high costs of probate. Zimmer Law Firm can help you to find other ways to transfer you assets, such as pay-on-death accounts, the use of joint ownership and the creation of different types of trusts.
After someone has passed away, when you are expecting an inheritance, you need to understand that the will probate process can take a long time. The specific length of time that the process is going to take will vary depending upon a wide variety of different factors, including the complexity of the transfer of assets, the value of the estate, and whether there are any problems like someone contesting a will.
Typically, the probate process will take around a year, but it could take much longer and it can sometimes be a little shorter if everything goes correctly. Zimmer Law Firm will help you to ensure that you do everything possible to move the process forward as quickly as possible if you have been named executor of an estate or if your loved one has passed away.
The executor of an estate is the individual with the most responsibility during the probate process. The executor of an estate has an obligation to file court paperwork and to take care of many different executor duties during the probate process including providing notice of the probate process to heirs or beneficiaries, taking care of estate assets, and facilitating the transfer of the ownership of assets to the new owners of the property as determined by the last will and testament. Because an executor has many complicated, technical responsibilities during the probate process, it is a good idea for the executor of an estate to be represented by an experienced probate lawyer at Zimmer Law Firm.
If you are involved in the probate process in any way, as an executor of an estate, as one of the heirs or beneficiaries, or as someone who wishes to contest a will, you should talk with a probate lawyer at Zimmer Law Firm. Our firm will guide you through every step of the probate process so you can honor the wishes of the deceased, protect an inheritance, and fulfill your obligations. Give us a call today to find out more.