Probate is triggered when someone experiences the death of a close relative, who leaves something of value behind. Either there is a will or there is no will and the death of that person triggers probate. Probate is simply the legal and court-supervised process that ensures the proper people are granted the rights and the responsibilities to the dead person’s estate.
What Are Some Options For Avoiding Probate?
There are a few options for avoiding probate. Mainly, you can do a transfer on death deed, which is typically done with bank accounts. However, if the estate has real estate or property, it is required to go through the probate process. Some of the other tools that people use to avoid probates are trusts.
What Actually Happens During The Probate Process?
There are four main stages to probate. The initial stage is going into probate court and filing a petition to open probate. Once the probate is opened, you have to give an inventory of the estate and provide notice to all the interested parties. Interested parties could be beneficiaries, heirs, or creditors. The notice is so that people can get involved in the process. The next stage, once a person is appointed as the administrator or the executor, is administering the estate. The administration of the estate includes paying bills, taking care of the assets, making sure the taxes are paid, making sure the insurance is paid, and transferring real estate. The administrator is responsible for maximizing the value of the assets. The final stage of the probate process is closing the estate and that is a very important part of it.
The administrator or the executor is supposed to get something called a refunding bond and release signed by each person who receives benefit under the estate so that those people can’t come after them later on. Those forms are then filed with the probate court and that is what closes the estate. The closing gets more involved if there are heirs who are asking for a formal accounting, but that doesn’t often happen. Most of the time, an informal accounting is enough.
Can Someone Realistically Navigate The Probate Process Without An Attorney?
There are so many pitfalls to attempting the probate process without an attorney. The executor has a lot of responsibility and there are a lot of steps that need to be taken in order for the executor to be off the hook, later on. Once you get into marshaling the assets, giving notice, inventorying, making sure that you maximize the value of the property, and making sure that the right people get the property, you need legal advice.
I think people try to save a few dollars and wind up spending it in other ways because they don’t do it properly. I don’t think anyone should do probate by themselves unless they have a very simple estate. If you have one back account that has $2,000 in it, then you don’t need an attorney. If there are real estate assets, multiple accounts, or multiple beneficiaries, you need an attorney.
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