Thursday, March 7, 2013

What is Probate

During a person’s lifetime, assets are generally owned in a person’s individual name.  After a death, title must be transferred from the decedent to  his or her beneficiaries.  Probate is the legal process of paying all debts and taxes and transferring title from a decedent’s estate to the beneficiaries.  This legal process includes:

  • Appointing a personal representative (also known as an executor or administrator) to manage the probate estate
  • Admitting the will (if any) to probate and verifying that the will is valid
  • Allowing creditors to file claims against estate assets
  • Identifying and locating heirs and beneficiaries
  • Completing final tax returns and making payment of taxes
  • Gathering and valuing all assets of the estate
  • Distributing assets to beneficiaries

Although probate sounds simple, it can be a long and difficult process.  There are several steps in the probate process and each step is supervised by the court.  These steps make probate both time-consuming and costly.  Beneficiaries can generally expect that the probate process take from 6 months to over a year.  Extremely complex cases may take even longer.  Should you or anyone you know need help with the probate process, or if you are interested in discussing how you can avoid probate, feel free to contact our office.

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