Probate is a formal court process that takes place when an individual passes away and leaves behind assets that need to be distributed to beneficiaries. However, there are certain assets that are not subject to probate which means that, depending on the assets of your estate and the way that you set up your estate plan, there is a possibility that you may be able to avoid the probate process altogether.
What are Probate Assets?
When you pass away, it’s the job of your Executor to pay off any debts that you may have had and distribute the rest of any money left behind to your beneficiaries. But what assets need to go through the probate process. Here are a few examples:
- Real estate
- Bank accounts without a beneficiary designation titled solely in the name of the decedent
- Personal property such as jewelry that does not have a beneficiary designation to it
It’s important to note that there are several states that will not require probate if the total value of the estate is below a certain monetary value. This value changes depending on what state you are in. Also, there are certain non-probate assets which you should be aware of such as any assets that are part of a trust or property with a named beneficiary.
What Can You Expect During Probate?
Probate is often a frustrating and time consuming process regardless of which state you’re in. In order to open probate, you will need to go to the surrogate court that the deceased individual resided in. You will also need to bring certain documentation with you. Although each county may be slightly different, in most cases you will need to bring with you the following:
- Proof of identification
- The original Last Will & Testament of the person who passed away
- Form of payment to cover the initial probate costs
A good rule of thumb is to contact the surrogate court ahead of time to avoid any issues during your appointment. Remember, even though your surrogate court may be incredibly helpful when it comes to the initial stages of the probate process, they will not be able to guide you step by step the way that an estate planning or probate attorney can.
It’s key to point out that there is a difference between probate and administration. If your loved one leftbehind a valid will, then you will need to go through the probate process. However, if the will is found to be invalid or if that person did not leave a will behind at all, you will need to go through the administration process. In many ways, probate and administration are similar, however, administration can be more challenging particularly if you’re unsure of the potential beneficiaries of the estate. Although you should always partner with a probate attorney, if you find yourself grappling with an administration, it’s just as important to get help from an experienced attorney.
Avoid The Headache: Hire an Estate Planning Attorney
Whether you need to set up an estate plan that helps you to avoid probate or you find yourself dealing with a headache as a result of being appointed as the Executor of an estate, the best thing that you can do is to hire an estate planning attorney that will walk you through the planning or probate process. With years of experience in the industry, you can count on our team of experienced estate planning experts to guide you through the process with the personalized touch that you need during this potentially trying time. For more information or to schedule your consultation, get in touch with us today!