Essentially, probate is the legal process of proving a Will. This process makes sure that the inheritance will go to the heirs that the deceased wanted it to go to. It also ensures that the wishes of the deceased are fulfilled.
Probate can also occur when there is no Will available. This means that a probate court will need to decide how the assets are split among their family. Small estates may go through probate court in a few weeks, while large estates can take years. The problem that occurs is that anyone who has any valid claim to any assets can file a petition with probate court. Even if a Will is available, sometimes you may still have to go to probate court.
What Assets Do Not Go Through Probate?
Assets such as bank accounts, retirement funds, and life insurance policies (with a payable-on-death beneficiary) will be automatically transferred to the beneficiary upon death. Because assets in a trust are governed separately from probate, they must be enacted according to the terms of the trust.
When Do The Terms of Probate Start?
Immediately when a person dies, all of their assets will become a part of their estate. The only exception is if these assets are also co-owned by someone else. Oftentimes, how the assets are distributed to the deceased family is one of the main parts of probate.
When there is a Will in place, it will go before a probate judge to determine whether or not the Will is legal. At times, the Will’s terms can be contested.
If there is no Will in place, then the person will have died “intestate”. At this point, the court decides who will be the heirs of the estate.
Steps of The Probate Process
1. Obtaining the death certificate: This proves that the person is truly dead.
2. One individual petitioning the court to become the executor: Most states will require that whoever signed the Will as a witness, will need to show up in court to prove its validity. Once the executor is approved, they will be granted the estate.
3. Identifying assets: Whoever is the executor of the estate will then need to have all assets appraised and identified. This is because the value of the property will eventually become extremely important if there is more than one beneficiary.
4. Paying liabilities and debts: The deceased may have debts, unpaid taxes, and other expenses left behind such as bills. All of these will need to be paid.
5. Notifying beneficiaries and distributing the assets: Finally, anyone who is named in the Will needs to be identified and notified.
How Much Will Probate Court Cost?
Although probate court costs may vary, on average you can plan to spend anywhere from 2%-7% of the total estate value. However, these costs will vary and might differ depending on the state you live in.