From our “Ask a Question” Mailbag: Inheritance and Probate
Most Recently Updated August 10, 2018.
Inheritance and Probate
When a person passes away, in some situations, the estate must be settled through a legal process known as probate. This is an important step for beneficiaries to receive assets from the estate, but it can be an expensive and time-consuming proceeding. When a loved one passes away, a lawyer, like a probate attorney can count on, may be able to provide help when settling an estate through probate.
Probate court is the legal process of validating a will and managing an individual’s finances upon their passing. The typical probate procedure includes ensuring that the individual’s will is valid, inventorying their assets, determining the value of these assets, paying any outstanding taxes or debts, and disbursing assets to the individual’s heirs. Even when an individual has created a valid will, their beneficiaries may still have to appear in probate. This is especially common in cases where a will is unclear or where beneficiaries dispute the will.
When it comes to the probate process, how assets are distributed to beneficiaries can vary depending on the state where you reside. Speaking with an attorney who has experience with probate and estate planning is beneficial when determining the right way to move forward. There are a number of key factors that will be helpful to remember:
- When an individual does not have a will or living trust in place, beneficiaries will have to go through probate to receive assets. Assets are transferred to beneficiaries when probate is complete. This process becomes a public record.
- A person may decide to create a trust account in place of a will, which protects assets from probate. Living trusts are not public records, which allows the family privacy that they would not otherwise be able to have.
- An estate planning attorney may be helpful when organizing retirement accounts and determining how it might be possible to transfer funds to beneficiaries.
Which assets won’t go through probate?
There are certain assets that may be transferable without having to go through the probate process. These assets include:
- Money from insurance policies
- Assets that are held jointly
- Trusts that hold assets
- Cash and property within accounts where a beneficiary is named on the account
Which assets will go through probate?
Items that must go through probate may include:
- Real estate property
- Anything valuable owned by the deceased, such as personal property
- Checking accounts or savings accounts where a transfer on death clause is not in place
Many people want to avoid probate because it costs both time and money. The court fees and legal fees associated with probate are reason enough to work with an estate planning attorney on creating a living trust. Bypassing probate also allows your beneficiaries to inherit their assets sooner than when they are required to go through probate.
Creating an estate plan can help to mitigate any extra expenses from legal fees and taxes, keeping your beneficiaries from having to go through the probate process. An estate planning attorney will be able to make recommendations and review your assets when you are planning your estate.
More Planning Questions?
Inheritance and Probate planning is only a piece of the Estate Planning process. By all means, if you want to learn more, please read my more detailed article, Estate Planning Everything You Need to Know.
In Conclusion: Inheritance and Probate
I hope that this article was helpful in explaining Inheritance and Probate. Further, I included links to even more detailed information on my website so you can learn more. Therefore, please contact me and let me know how I did. Certainly, your comments and questions are welcome!
Let our Estate Planning lawyers help walk you through what can be a confusing process. To begin with, call to speak to one of our experienced estate planning lawyers. By all means, our lawyers are ready to answer your questions. In fact, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. Ultimately our goal is to make the process as painless as possible!
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