When a loved one passes away with just a Will, or no estate plan at all, his or her family is required to put the estate through a court-managed process called probate. While most of our clients set up their estates through a living trust to avoid it, the majority of estates do go through probate, which can be a confusing, frustrating and arduous process. We’re here to guide families through that process.
What You Can Expect in Probate
No two probates are ever the same, but some of them involve locating the Will and making a filing with the probate court. Once the Will has been accepted, the court appoints a personal representative. After that, all of the heirs need to be formally noticed in writing. They have the opportunity to review the Will and make any appropriate challenges or contests.
After debts and taxes are paid, assets are distributed in accordance with the Will or intestacy. Some assets, like life insurance and retirement accounts, might not be affected by probate and pass directly to the named beneficiary. Other kinds of assets, like those held in joint tenancy, will pass directly to the other joint tenant. All of these assets are counted as part of the estate for purposes of calculating whether taxes are due or regarded as part of any existing or future Medicaid applications. Additionally, estates over a certain threshold have to be probated whether they are taxable or not.
If you find yourself in probate, we will guide you every step of the way, from lodging the Will and notifying heirs, to transferring assets to the intended beneficiaries. If a loved one has recently passed away and you’d like a no-cost, confidential consultation to discuss the next steps, please call our office to schedule a meeting.