Probate court, which legalizes a dead person’s will and distributes assets, is sometimes considered cumbersome. Many people want to find ways to simplify the estate settlement process and reduce intervention by a probate court.
Though probate performs an extremely important function of ensuring that assets are distributed smoothly, it is not unusual for people to look into other means–to avoid possible disadvantages. In the following article, we’ll look at several ways you can use to get around probate court together with your probate lawyer.
Probate refers to the court-supervised procedure by which a deceased person’s will is verified and their property distributed.
Steps involved in probate court
1. Filing a petition
The procedure normally starts with the filing of a petition in probate court. This petition can be submitted by the executor designated in the will or an interested party, such as a family member or creditor.
2. Appointment of executor or administrator
Upon review by the court, a valid will name an executor. If no one is named or if the person appointed, for any reason, refuses to serve, a court will appoint an administrator. The executor or administrator controls the estate of the deceased right through probate.
3. Notifying creditors and heirs
Probate proceedings must be notified to creditors and heirs of the deceased. The process usually involves publishing a notice in a local newspaper and formal notification to known creditors or beneficiaries.
4. Inventory and appraisal of assets
Moreover, the executor must also establish an inventory of all assets belonging to the deceased person (real property as well as bank accounts and investments), personal belongings, and other valuable things such as heirlooms. In some cases, a professional appraiser will be taken on to set the value of various assets.
5. Payment of debts and taxes
The estate’s debts and taxes must be paid off before any assets can go to heirs. It means paying off outstanding bills, funeral costs, and any estate or inheritance taxes payable. The executor takes care of these financial responsibilities.
6. Challenging the will (if applicable)
The will may be contested. The main reasons a will is contested are lack of capacity, undue influence or fraud in making it, and improper execution. Will contests can delay probate?
7. Distribution of assets
After the debts, taxes, and other charges have been paid out of them, these assets are distributed to one or more beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of a will (where there is one), otherwise according to intestacy legislation.
8. Final accounting and closing of the estate
The executor has to give the court a final accounting of assets, liabilities, and distributions regarding the estate. After the court approves the final accounting, it issues a closing order for the estate. With that, there ends the probate process.
9. Distribution of inheritance
After receiving court approval, the executor can pass on to beneficiaries and heirs any remaining assets as laid out by law in the will or according to intestacy laws.
10. Final discharge of executor
When all necessary tasks have been accomplished and court approval received, the executor is formally discharged from their responsibilities. This completes the probate procedure.
How to bypass probate court
Establish a living trust.
Living trusts are a good way to avoid probate court. A living trust is a legal entity that holds assets for an individual during his or her lifetime and then transfers them to beneficiaries at death.
In contrast to a will, which must be probated in the event of your death and passed through various legal channels before assets can finally get distributed, a living trust functions independently of court.
Establishing a living trust entails transferring ownership of assets to it, with oneself as the initial trustee. Choosing a successor trustee ensures the smooth changing of hands. Because the trust owns all assets, probate court participation is reduced. Estate settlement, therefore, progresses more smoothly and at a lower cost.
Joint ownership with right of survivorship
Joint ownership with the right of survivorship is another way to avoid probate. This includes taking out assets jointly as one’s spouse, parents, or another individual so the surviving co-owner can inherit the asset.
Joint ownership is a simple way to avoid probate, but factors such as quarrels between joint owners or unexpected consequences should be considered. Also, this method is unsuitable for all sorts of assets, and legal advice should be sought on the proper titling of those acquired.
A number of assets, including life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and bank accounts, can be left to beneficiaries. These assets can be passed directly to the designated beneficiaries by naming specific individuals or entities as recipients.
This simple procedure means that assets can be distributed more rapidly. It is also a strategy often used to simplify the estate settlement process. Regularly reviewing and updating beneficiary designations is very important after major life events such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of children.
Keeping beneficiary designations up to date is an important part of the proactive estate plan. Otherwise, there may be unintended consequences.
Small estate procedures
In certain jurisdictions, estates of modest value may be subject to abbreviated probate processes called “small estate” or “summary administration.” These simplify the procedures for small estates below a predetermined asset cutoff.
They result in speedier disposal and less paperwork.
The estate generally must meet certain criteria to qualify for small-estate procedures, which include a low total asset value and no contested claims. That said, executors or administrators can use these procedures advantageously in probating estates as long as they understand the eligibility requirements and rules that apply to them at any given time.
Even though probate plays an important role in maintaining the orderly distribution of assets, it is not necessary.
Through methods such as studying living trusts, joint ownership arrangements, beneficiary designations, and small estate procedures are highly effective, you should note that the effectiveness of the process would depend on the particular case in question, and a professional legal opinion from a reputable probate attorney PG County is always called for when planning estates.