Probate of an Estate is an court proceeding overseen by a judge. The purpose is to insure that property is administered in an orderly fashion so that creditors are paid and heirs receive whatever is left after the expenses, costs, appraisers and attorney’s fees are paid. The process usually requires about 9 months to complete but can take much longer. The process can be expensive, frustrating, public and long.
Probate is needed whenever there is property that does not pass to the heirs or beneficiaries automatically.
Intestacy: Someone who dies without a leaving property that requires a Court to place it into the names of the Heirs. The Legislature has written a plan of distribution which may not meet you decedent’s wishes.
Testate: A person dies laving a Last Will and Testament. With few exceptions a Will must be validated by a probate court. Heirs, and disinherited heirs, are notified and can contest its provisions. The Will is filed of record and its contents can be examined by the public.
Otherwise know as the “bounce the last check before you die plan” is not an option for most.
Remove property from the Probate Estate but generally limit the ability to make comprehensive plans. These may include payable on death accounts or beneficiaries on life insurance policies.
Some attempt to avoid probate by retitling property so that it passes without probate. Property titled as Joint Tenancy, Life Estates and Transfer on Death can be transferred by filing of an affidavit or other simplified process. These have major drawbacks.
Trusts are popular because of their flexibility and ability to change, revoke or modify its provisions. A Trust can be designed so that property is immediately available to the heirs or can be structured to delay distributions until they are financially mature.