Probate wills are legal documents which detail information about a decedent's estate. A Will includes the name and contact information for the person who will be responsible for handling the estate, a list of assets owned by the decedent, and the individuals who will receive those assets.
Also known as the Last Will and Testament, probate wills are submitted to the local courthouse in the decedent's place of residence. Every Will must be validated to ensure it abides by probate laws and is legally-binding. Certain steps must be followed before distribution of assets can occur.
When a person dies, the estate administrator must present the original probate will and death certificate to the court. In some states, the designed administrator must be confirmed by the court prior to assuming duties. Confirmation grants permission to the administrator to make decisions and carry out tasks associated with the estate.
Every person aged 18 and over should execute a Will. There are several ways to accomplish this, some of which are free. Preformatted wills can be downloaded for free via the Internet. Some office supply stores sell Last Will forms for a nominal fee. These forms are usually sufficient for individuals who are single, do not have minor children, or possess few assets.
Individuals who own real estate, businesses, multiple assets, financial portfolios or have children under the age of 18 should consult with an estate planning service. Estate planners offer a variety of options to protect minor children and keep assets out of probate.
Probate generally takes six to nine months to complete. During this time the decedent's financial assets are frozen. Funds held in checking and savings accounts cannot be withdrawn. Stocks and bonds cannot be traded or sold. Inheritance cannot be distributed to heirs. Real estate and automobiles cannot be sold.
Throughout the probate process, the decedent's estate is responsible for paying outstanding debts and taxes. If the decedent owned real estate with a mortgage note attached, the estate must continue making loan payments, property taxes and homeowners insurance. If the estate does not possess sufficient funds to maintain the real estate, a probate judge can order the property to be sold.
The estate is responsible for paying outstanding creditor debts including credit cards and medical expenses. Depending on the amount of debt owed, a probate attorney can negotiate with creditors to reduce the amount of debt owed. Additionally, a judge can order assets to be sold to satisfy creditor debts.
It is estimated nearly 85-percent of heirs do not receive inheritance property when estates undergo probate. Creditors, lawyers and estate administrators are paid before distribution can be made.
Techniques exist which allow estate assets to avoid probate. The most common technique is to establish a trust. However, trusts are usually reserved for assets valued over $100,000. Individuals with small estates can take measures to protect assets from probate without the need for a trust.
We have included numerous articles within our probate article library to help our visitors make informed decisions. Here you will discover estate planning options, how to keep assets out of probate, establishing guardianship for minor children, and the various types of trusts.
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Published on June 11, 2009 at 02:20 AM