An estate court handles the assets and debts of a decedent after he or she passes away. It is the duty of the probate court judge to make sure that the deceased’s creditors are paid, as well as to ensure that the deceased’s assets are distributed to his or her heirs.
Probate: What Is It?
The distribution of a deceased person’s property is overseen by a court through the probate process. There are probate courts in many states.
This court is also known as Surrogate’s Court, Orphan’s Court and Chancery Court in some states. For more information, visit jwagnerlegal.com.
An appointed person is in charge of controlling the deceased’s assets, overseeing the proper payment of all debts, and distributing any remaining property to the appropriate beneficiaries.
A Will is Not Necessary for Probate
A deceased person’s property is distributed to the next of kin when he or she dies without a will, according to the state’s probate laws. The law of intestate succession falls under the probate law.
According to it, the next of kin inherits in order. The decedent’s surviving spouse inherits part of his or her estate. Moreover, the law divides up inheritance by grandchildren, siblings, parents, aunts and uncles, and cousins.
There are different details depending on the state. Essentially, intestate succession is the “will” that the state writes for you if you do not write one for yourself.
Having a Will in Probate
A person who dies with a will (usually titled a last will and testament) leaves their property to those whom the will designates (such as charities).
Courts must also decide whether a will is valid before they can probate it. A court decides whether or not a will is valid if someone contests it.
In states that have community property, a surviving spouse is entitled to one half of the property earned by the couple during their marriage, and the will makes provisions for the distribution of the deceased’s community property and separate property.
Costs of Probate
Fees for court filings, notices in newspapers, attorneys’ and executors’ fees are typically included in the costs of probate. Depending on the complexity of the estate, an accountant may also be necessary. There are several ways to pay for probate attorneys, including hourly rates, a percentage of the estate value, or a combination.
It can take months, and even years, for a probate to be completed. This can take anywhere between six months to two years for an average modest estate. As the process drags on, the price increases. When an heir contests a will, things get more complicated and costly.
Public records of the deceased’s finances are created during probate. There is also information regarding the assets and the extent of the debt, as well as who will inherit the assets.
Attorneys and probate
You may be able to go through probate without a lawyer for simple estates with or without a will. Estates can be more complex than they first appear to be. An experienced probate attorney can speed up the process, settle any problems that arise, make sure taxes are handled correctly, and relieve you of stress.