What Is Probate And What Does It Mean For You?
Probate is a court-administered system through which your property is distributed to the persons who are legally entitled to receive it. The term “probate” technically applies to the administration of wills.
Generally, your estate will require probate if you died with property titled in your name, which did not have a beneficiary designation or some other survivorship provision. There are some summary collection procedures, which may in some cases be used to collect small estates, which will not require probate.
How The Process Works
The first step in the probate process is the court appointment of a personal representative who will administer your estate and distribute the property as provided under your will, or, if you died without a will, to your heirs who are entitled to receive the property under the intestate statutes.
Probate administration involves a series of public notices and timelines, which are intended to give interested persons, including your beneficiaries or creditors or others, the opportunity to protect their interests and present their claims. Your estate may be settled through the probate system without actual court hearings if there are no conflicts. On the other hand, some probate proceedings involve conflict or litigation between beneficiaries or creditors or other interested parties. When litigation occurs, the proceedings may be delayed and the estate may incur substantial additional litigation costs.
Consent And Release
Beneficiaries and creditors accept their distributions from the personal representative by signing consent and a release. Alternately, a personal representative may seek a court order of distribution.
Many families prefer to avoid probate and have private administration of the decedent’s estate. This can be accomplished through a revocable trust and one or more coordinated beneficiary designations or deeds.
Probate may be appropriate if you anticipate potential claims or have potential title or other issues, which are best, resolved under the well-understood timelines and procedures provided in the probate statutes.
Uncontested probate proceedings may be concluded within a year following your death. Conflicts, tax problems or other title issues may result in a substantially longer period of time.