Probate is a court process that authorizes a person (your Executor or Personal Representative) to handle your affairs and distribute your estate assets. An Executor is a person appointed by the court when you do not have a will. A Personal Representative is the person you name in your will to administer your estate after your death. The Executor or Personal Representative, once authorized by the court, can write checks on your bank account, take control of your assets, pay your debts and taxes, and make distributions of those assets according to the terms of your Last Will and Testament, or according to intestate succession laws if you did not have a Will.
I'VE BEEN TOLD THAT IF I HAVE A WILL, THERE WON'T BE A PROBATE. IS THIS TRUE?
This is not completely true. There are situations where a probate is necessary whether you have a Will or not. If you have a Will, you have chosen who will serve as the Personal Representative of your estate and have stated how you wish your assets to be distributed upon your death.
WHAT IF I DON'T HAVE A WILL? DOES THERE STILL NEED TO BE A PROBATE?
If you own assets that are in your name alone, then there may need to be a probate. Not having a Will just means that your Personal Representative and how your assets will pass to your spouse and heirs are determined by the laws of the state in which you reside (intestate succession laws).
Yes, there are several things that can be done to minimize the necessity of having to probate your estate. However, there is no guarantee that a probate will not be necessary. This office can assist you in determining what can be done in your particular situation to minimize the possibility of having to probate your estate.
I'VE HEARD THAT PROBATES TAKE A LONG TIME AND CAN BE VERY EXPENSIVE. IS THIS TRUE?
Probates do take time, but mostly because there are restrictions imposed by the law for certain things. However, a simple probate can be completed in as little as four to six months with the cooperation of the beneficiaries and if there are no unexpected delays or complications.
Because a probate is a court action, there will be certain expenses that need to be paid and if you have a lawyer assisting you with a probate, there will be legal fees in addition to the expenses that will need to be paid. The fees for administering a probate will vary from case to case based on the specifics of each estate. Contact this office to discuss fees in a specific estate.