Everyone has heard the term, probate, at one time or another, but not too many people really understand the probate process. Weve listed the probate questions and answers that we frequently hear in our office.
What is probate?
The term, probate, refers to the court process of validating a will after someone dies. It also refers to an executor (i.e. personal representative) or administrator being appointed to settle the estate.
During the estate settlement process, the executor collects, protects, manages, and appraises the assets. She also pays last bills, works with the probate attorney, files required tax returns, and distributes assets to the beneficiaries when all other matters are settled.
When is probate necessary?
Probate is required when someone dies owning assets in his individual name. Probate is the process of transferring these assets to beneficiaries.
What documents are needed to start the probate proceeding?
When you go to the court house to apply for the letters of testamentary, you need to take the will, identification (i.e. your drivers license), and the death certificate. Youll also need a check to pay the filing fees.
How long does probate take?
The typical probate takes anywhere between 4 months and several years.
How can I avoid probate?
Only assets in your individual name are probated; so, if you dont own assets in your individual name, there is no probate.
For example, these assets avoid probate:
- Revocable living trust assets
- Jointly owned assets
- Assets held in trust for someone else
- Pay on death assets
- Beneficiary designation assets (retirement accounts and life insurance)
When is my will filed at the courthouse?
Your will is filed at the court house when your executor opens the estate. In other words, your will is filed at the court house and available to the public as soon as probate starts.