What is probate?
Probate is the court-administered process of transferring property after the owner dies. Property is first collected. Debts and taxes are paid. Disputes are settled, and the property is dispersed to heirs.
If a person dies without a will, the court assumes the responsibility of selecting heirs and distributing property to them. The court focuses on close relatives: surviving spouse and children. Where immediate family is not present, the court turns more distant relatives: parents, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, etc. If the court finds no relatives, it might award the property to the state.
Even if a will exists, it can be contested (usually by party seeking a larger bequest than was awarded through the will). Common objections to a will’s validity include: mental incapacity of the decedent, improper influence upon the decedent, evidence of non-existed of the will and failure to comply with legal formalities. A contested will requires court proceedings.
Most wills proceed uncontested.
Estate planning often aims to reduce or avoid probate. Slowness and costliness have given the probate process a bad reputation. Related fees include those for the personal representative, the attorney and the court.
How can you reduce or avoid probate?
A will, especially an uncontested one, helps to expedite the probate process and prevent unnecessary costs. An experienced attorney can help you craft an effective will that provides for your loved ones and protects your desires.MORE INFO
A living trust can avoid probate altogether by transferring ownership before death. MORE INFO
Real estate can be immediately transfered with a beneficiary deed. MORE INFO