Heirs How to Deal with Probate
Heirs refer to persons entitled to inherit property from someone who has died. The word 'heir' is derived from the Latin words, hered and heres. These words are related to the Greek word, chēros, meaning 'suffering the death of a loved one'.
Typically, the word "heirs" is used to describe a person who inherits property or entitled to inherit property. Inheritance property can consist of real estate, land, a business entity, or personal property such as automobiles, jewelry and household furnishings
Heirs are generally named within the decedent's Last Will and Testament. In many instances, heirs are the decedent's living spouse, children or grandchildren. However, heirs do not have to be direct lineage relatives of the decedent. The decedent can designate whomever they desire to receive their belongings in their Will.
If the decedent dies without executing a Will (intestate), a probate judge will determine the rightful heirs of the estate. Probate is the process used to hold the decedent's assets to ensure outstanding debts and taxes are paid, and property is appropriately distributed.
During the probate process, an Estate Executor is appointed to administer the estate. All of the decedent's assets are transferred to the court while the Executor takes inventory of the property and handles financial affairs. Probate generally takes several months to complete. However, if family disputes arise or if there is no Will, probate can be prolonged for years.
Two types of property can be gifted to heirs through a Will or Living Trust – specific gifts and general gifts. Specific gifts include items such as collectables, heirlooms or jewelry. General gifts are the items which remain after the specific gifts are distributed.
Typically, general gifts consist of the bulk of the estate. Heirs who receive general gifts are known as "principal heirs." Every Will must designate at least one principal heir.
Certain types of property cannot be distributed to heirs through a Will. These include retirement plans, life insurance proceeds, payable-on-death bank accounts, and real estate held in Joint Tenancy or Community Property.
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