The Probate Process - A General Overview

After losing a loved one, often the last thing we want to think about or discuss is the future. However, the items that are left behind by the deceased have to be dealt with and the process has to begin at some point. Whilst some people will think of the sentimental items, others will think of items with monetary value so how is this split? What happens to these key items? What happens to any debts that have been left unsettled? Over the years, the courts have developed a system of deciding who gets what and this is called ‘probate’. 

Probate Explained - As seen previously, probate is a legal process that decides what items go to which beneficiary and how everything is dispersed. Although probate isn't always required, often it is and the state will begin by validating the will. As soon as this happens, an executor is assigned either by the names in the will or by the court. Overall, the executor plays an important role because they will carry out the identification of assets, the payment of outstanding taxes and debts, asset appraisal, and then the distribution of the remaining section of the estate. 

Is it Necessary? - A common misconception that comes along with probate is that it isn't required if there is no will but this isn't true because if there isn't a will, the assets still need to be divided accordingly. In addition to this, courts will often step in anyway if the value of the estate is over $100,000. With this being said, the probation process can be avoided if the following is done before death; 

•    ‘Pay-on death’ accounts
•    Setting up a trust alongside a will
•    Having a beneficiary
•    Giving away all possessions before death
•    Changing assets into joint tenancy 

If all of these steps above are completed before passing away, probate will not be necessary because everything has been dealt with beforehand. For example, giving away possessions means that they will have reached their intended owners before death and changing assets into a joint tenancy will ensure that the joint owner takes over after death. By having these steps put into place, there will be no confusion as to what should happen after passing away. 

If you want to avoid probate for your family after passing, consider putting these actions into place now to ensure that it is avoided. If you have key possessions, be sure to give them to family members and friends before you pass away and even put your house into a joint tenancy so the intended future owner already has one hand on it. Although this sounds morbid to even think about, it may save your family a lot of stress in an already devastating time by going through the courts. In addition to this, families have been torn apart by the division of a relative’s possessions so completing these actions will prevent this from ever occurring.