After a person dies, their estate must go through probate. This legal process is key to taking assets from the deceased and distributing them to heirs.
Most people look at probate as a bad thing, but it is actually a normal part of estate administration. Here are a few important points to consider to ensure your peace of mind.
How probate works
There are several steps involve in probating a will. First, the court receives the document to determine whether it is valid and legally binding. Next, heirs receive notice of the will, which allows them to contest its validity if they have concerns. If not, probate moves along to the next phase in the process.
The executor must then gather and account for all assets, including property. Creditors receive notice next, which allows them to pursue repayment through the deceased’s assets. Finally, the remaining assets go to the heirs in the manner established by the will.
What does and does not go through probate
Any property that was solely owned by the deceased and does not have a beneficiary designation will go through probate. This includes things like houses, cars, jewelry, and other personal belongings. Any assets left out of the will must also go through probate. In general, if there is no will, the court decides how to distribute assets.
Assets with beneficiary designations include life insurance policies and retirement accounts. These assets pass to the beneficiary automatically upon a person’s death, without going through probate. The same is true of jointly-owned items, which become the property of the co-owner after death. Any assets held within a trust also avoid probate.
A well-crafted will is your best defense against a long, drawn-out probate process. Selecting the right executor is also crucial, as this person will have lots of tasks and duties to attend to.