The death of a loved one is often a heavy emotional experience to contend with. The last thing anyone wants to deal with is complications in dispersing assets to heirs.
The mention of probate often brings forth negative connotations. Many people create their estate plans out of fear that their family will be required to endure the probate process. Is it really as bad as it seems? Are there actual benefits to probate? Although probate can, at times, be a real pain, it is also there for a reason. Regardless of probate, it is important to note that an estate plan is the most effective way to ensure that your heirs obtain their inheritance in the way you intended. If you have a loved one who has recently passed, an attorney can help you understand each step to the probate process.
What is Probate?
When a person passes away, their property is disbursed to beneficiaries identified in the will. When there is a will in place, it is used as a roadmap to the final wishes of the deceased. Probate is the process of proving a will in court. In some cases this must occur prior to assets being officially handed over to beneficiaries. Probate validates the will by going over assets, properties and debts prior to disbursement. The executor of the estate or an attorney will usually file with the probate court and notices are posted. Common items in a will that must go through probate include:
- Real Estate Property
- Insurance Policies
- 401k accounts
Probate often gets a bad rap because it can slow down the process. Many people are misinformed about the probate process. It’s important to seek the guidance of an estate-planning attorney for further clarity surrounding probate, as there are a number of misconceptions people have:
- A will can be tied up in probate for years. Probate times frames can vary depending upon where you live. It’s important to note that much of the time, probate should take no longer than a year.
- Many people believe that if a will goes through probate, the state or federal government will take everything, especially if there is no will in place. Although the process can vary by state, enduring probate is required when a person passes away without a will. Without a will, the state will choose who stands to inherit your assets. However in most cases, assets are left to your spouse and children.
- Fear that once your assets go through probate there will be nothing left for beneficiaries. In most cases, the cost of probate is only a very small percentage of the estate.
With an attorney by your side with experience in this area of practice, your loved ones may be able to breeze through probate, especially if you left behind an estate plan for them to reference.
Benefits to Probate
Although the thought of probate can fill many people with dread, there are a number of reasons why it is a necessary part of the process. Probate is part of a system of checks and balances to ensure that heirs obtain the inheritance that they are entitled to. Benefits to probate include:
- Shortens the amount of time creditors have to attempt to collect from an estate.
- Probate will review the guardianship plan for minor children. The court will almost always go with the guardian of your choosing unless for some reason they are found to be unsuitable.
- If a person dies without a will in place, probate can protect their assets and ensure they are disbursed to their rightful heirs.
A probate lawyer Folsom, CA trusts can be of particular use when tackling the probate process. They can educate you surrounding probate and help you develop an estate plan that is sustainable.
Thank you to our friend and contributors at Yee Law Group Inc. for their insight into probate and estate planning.