Probate is when property is transferred after a person passes away. This legal process has a specific set of requirements in each state. It’s a formal process, and you may need to go to court.
Probate is court-supervised. People don’t always have to go through probate, but many people end up working through the probate process because the person who passed away did not will or pass all assets on to beneficiaries. If there is no recognizable ownership or designation, then the asset is held until the court can determine whom it belongs to.
How can you avoid probate?
The best way to avoid probate is by making sure that you or your loved ones have a will, trust or are with someone with the right of survivorship. When properties belong to two people, the joint owner retains the entire asset after another party’s death if there is no other designation.
What happens if you have to go through the probate process?
If probate is necessary, all property that needs to go through probate is collected for the court. All the debts, taxes and claims made against the estate are then paid. You or your attorney may need to collect all dividends, rights to income and other financial documents. Settling disputes is next followed by distributing remaining property to the court-appointed heirs.
In the majority of cases, an executor is already appointed to take over the affairs of the decedent after death. If one isn’t appointed, the court may determine who should look over the estate and handle the affairs in the meantime. That court-appointed trustee or executor becomes responsible for doling out assets and making sure the estate’s affairs are taken care of.
Finding out your loved one didn’t have an estate plan can shock you. This situation could become complicated, which is why many people turn to professionals for help.