Many people are under the impression that a last will is a very simple document. You state your final wishes regarding the distribution of your assets, and you name an executor. After you die, the executor follows your instructions and your heirs receive their inheritances immediately after the funeral, right?
In reality things are not quite that simple. If you are in direct personal possession of property after you die and you arrange for its transfer through the terms of a last will, the executor must admit the will to probate. Let’s look at the details.
Process of Probate
Probate can be succinctly defined as the legal process of estate administration. The executor takes care of the hands-on tasks that must be completed to bring your wishes to fruition, but the administration of the estate is supervised by the probate court.
The court must determine whether or not the will is in fact valid. This is called the proving of the will. If anyone wanted to contest the validity of the will, this individual could present an argument during probate.
During the process of probate final debts must be paid. This will include final taxes. Ultimately, the executor will prepare the assets for distribution to the heirs to the estate. This can include the liquidation of property.
Probate is in place to provide protections to interested parties, but it is not necessary a positive for the rightful heirs to the estate. The process of probate can be quite time-consuming. The exact duration of the process will vary depending on the circumstances. At minimum, probate will take perhaps nine months or so, and cases that are contested or otherwise complicated can take much longer.
Expenses are another factor to take into consideration. The executor is entitled to remuneration for his or her time and trouble, and the court charges a filing fee. Because probate is a legal process, the executor will typically bring in a probate lawyer, so there are legal fees.
As we have previously stated, final taxes must be paid, so a tax accountant is often going to be required. Appraisals can be necessary, so there can be appraisal expenses to go along with the liquidation costs.
When an estate passes through probate, the goings-on become a matter of public record. Anyone who is interested could find out how you planned your estate, and this can be disconcerting to some people.
All in all, when you consider the realities of probate, you may look for alternatives to a last will.
Learn More About Probate
In this post we have provided a basic overview. If you would like to learn more about the probate process, download our in-depth report on the subject. It is being offered free of charge, and you can obtain access in the Reports section of this website.