Probate can be a helpful process.
Many people fear probate.
They try to avoid probate.
According to a recent The Street article “What Is Probate and How Can You Avoid It?,” probate is not all bad.
What is probate?
Probate is the legal process set up to for settling an estate.
The process is usually initiated by the executor of the family of a deceased individual.
The last will of the decedent must be filed with the probate court within the statutory required time frame.
In other words, unless the last will is filed within six months in Kansas and one year in Missouri.
Probate assets are inventoried, the estate is appraised, debts are paid, and assets are eventually distributed to the heirs after the claims period has run.
If there is a last will, assets will be distributed according to the directions in that legal instrument (it just sound cooler to use "instrument" instead of "document," yes?).
If there is no legal last will, the assets are passed along according to the applicable state laws of intestate succession.
What is a typical probate process?
A petition is filed.
The executor will file to open probate.
The court will choose a time to confirm the executor.
When the executor has been confirmed, the probate case will be officially opened.
Notice is given.
An executor must notify heirs, creditors, and other interested parties of the estate entering probate.
Assets are inventoried.
The executor records assets and their values.
This valuation must be given to the probate court.
Bills are paid.
Debts and bills must be paid before heirs can receive their full inheritance.
Tax returns are filed.
The estate will have a tax return to file.
The executor can do this alone.
If the executor needs help, he or she may hire an accountant.
Heirs are paid.
After all debts, taxes, and expenses have been paid, the remaining assets can be distributed to heirs according to the instructions in the will.
The estate is closed.
After the previous steps are completed, the executor can file with the court to close the estate.
Some estates are more complicated than others.
Without an organized estate or any estate plan, the probate proceedings can be long and costly.
Work with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure that your estate administration and distribution goes as smoothly as possible.
Reference: The Street (July 29, 2019) “What Is Probate and How Can You Avoid It?”