Probate: it’s costly, lengthy, taxing, and, thankfully, avoidable. Although no one likes to think about their death, it’s important that you consider what will someday happen to your assets before that fateful day occurs. The probate procedure, in which debts are paid, paperwork is filed, and assets are distributed to beneficiaries, is an important part of the process. As you work on your estate plan, you’ll learn that there are many important things to know about probate, so today we’re discussing several of these key items.
Things to Know About Probate
Probate is a court process that occurs after a person dies. During probate, the deceased person’s will is validated, their property is inventoried and appraised, their debts and taxes are paid, and their assets are distributed. If the person created a will, the assets are transferred to the deceased’s chosen beneficiaries; if they did not have a will, state laws will dictate who receives which assets. The person in charge of handling the deceased’s affairs is known as the executor, and this person is typically chosen by the deceased. Fees must be paid to the courts and attorneys involved, and the entire probate process can take months (and sometimes even years) to complete. Whether or not you have a will, probate will apply. Some people mistakenly believe that probate is only a concern if you have a will. In fact, if you don’t have a will, your estate will still go through probate and your state’s laws will decide who gets what. If you have a will, on the other hand, you will be able to specify who receives your assets and how your estate is transferred. Probate may not apply to all of your estate. The probate process involves only the assets in your “probate estate.” You may also have “non-probate property,” which refers to any assets you possess that will automatically be transferred to someone else when you pass away. For example, assets that you own jointly with another person (or people), assets held in a trust, and assets for which you’ve named a beneficiary are non-probate property. You can devise your estate plan to avoid probate. Probate can be time-consuming, exhausting, very public, and a burden on your family. If you want to avoid these annoyances, you can sidestep probate entirely by working with an attorney. You may need to create a living trust, establish joint ownership of property, or build pay-on-death bank and retirement accounts, but these methods are worth exploring to avoid the probate process. To learn more about why and how you might choose to avoid probate, please check out this previous blog post.
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If you live in southwest Missouri, contact the attorneys at Parks & Jones for all of your estate planning and elder law needs. We can help you build a new estate plan or update your current estate plan, and we would be happy to help you reduce or eliminate the probate that will occur after your death. Give us a call at 417-823-9898 to learn more, or click here to schedule a free consultation. We look forward to hearing from you!