Facing Probate After Losing A Loved One

When the testators have adequately planned for the future by developing an estate plan or executing a will, probate is just a formal process of validating the will. Probate is not something that testators and their families should dread unless they have failed to develop a comprehensive plan or, worse, passed away without a will in place. A Carpenter & Lewis PLLC probate lawyer families turn to for support will tell testators that it’s vital to understand the probate process. The goal of the testator should be to develop an estate plan that outlines clear plans for the future, one of which will be protecting assets from probate and creditors. At times, probate can become a litigious process, although there are several reasons behind this; when a person has passed away, the last thing the estate executor and family members want to face is costly probate proceedings. However, when a testator carefully plans for the future, it’s possible to avoid this conflict and ensure wishes are carried out, and assets are appropriately distributed per the estate plan they have developed.

Understanding Probate

Probate is when the courts legally validate the decedent’s will. While many people are concerned about probate and would prefer to avoid it, probate is imperative because it ensures that the will is legal and properly executed. Typically, the appointed estate administrator will initiate this process and will be charged with carrying out the terms outlined within the will. The estate administrator is someone who has been appointed by the testator of the will to initiate the probate process, resolve the estate, and ensure that all debts are paid, and beneficiaries receive their inheritance. The time it may take for the probate process to resolve will vary based on the specifics, such as the size of the estate and whether there was a will. Sometimes probate can take a few months to resolve, but in more complicated situations, the process can take years, making probate not only time-consuming but also costly.

Protecting Assets From Probate

Although probate is a necessary legal process, the fewer assets that must pass through it, the better. When a legal professional assists with planning, they can help reduce the number of assets incorporated into this legal process. There are specific strategies that testators can implement to protect assets from probate; typical examples include:

  • Transferring assets into a trust
  • Transferring ownership of the property before you pass away
  • Establishing joint tenancy because jointly owned property avoids probate
  • Ensuring that a beneficiary has been designated for all payable on death accounts

Probate is a public process, one that many people wish to avoid. No one wants to see the contents of their estate made available to the public; not only will the public have access to intimate details, but it can also open the estate up to litigation should people come forward with a claim on the estate.

While probate doesn’t have to be feared, especially with the proper planning, when there is no will, serious problems can arise. When a person dies without a will, they have died intestate, meaning the entirety of the estate will need to endure the probate process. When this happens, decisions will be left to the court, and how assets are distributed will rely upon the laws of intestate succession. For some, this may not matter, but without the proper planning, the estate can be open to legal disputes.