“Probate” is a term you’re likely to hear in the context of either preparing your Will or taking a Will to court in the event of the death of a family member. Quite simply, probate is the process of proving a Will. It is the act of taking a last Will & Testament to court and receiving official approval that this is the final, dictating set of instructions from the deceased regarding the disposition of their property and possibly, care of their children. More generally, probate refers to the process of administering that will, which involves several steps:
Proving the Will
Someone, usually the Executor, takes the original Will to court and receives official approval that it is valid. Note that the original Will is required, not a copy. This is one of the top reasons to keep your Will in a safe location, where family members can locate it when necessary.
Any debts of the deceased must be paid off using funds from the estate. Credit card debt, medical expenses, probate expenses and costs associated with burial or cremation all fall into this category. What’s left can then be distributed to beneficiaries.
Identifying and Inventorying Property
Once the Will is proved valid and debts are paid, the Executor begins identifying all of the decedent’s remaining property. This might include bank accounts, retirement funds, real estate, savings accounts, along with tangible assets like furniture, jewelry, clothing and cars. Note that not all assets will be included in the probate process. (More information on that available here.) And certain estates will qualify for a simplified process that will save the Executor the time and effort of submitting a formal inventory of assets to the court. If you think your estate might qualify, call Asurest to find out.
The Executor has a clear picture of what’s in the estate, now it’s time to distribute those assets to beneficiaries. This can often be a very challenging task, especially if there are significant items of personal property. If the decedent left a Personal Property Disposition List (discussed here), that task can often be made easier for the Executor. If not, there are systems for letting beneficiaries chose which items they’d like to receive (see my series on those options here).
Closing the Estate
Once all debts have been paid, assets inventoried and distributed, the estate needs to be closed. The Executor submits an affidavit to the court that all the work has been done and the court declares the estate closed.
Virginia has a pretty inexpensive and straightforward probate process but for clients who want to avoid the time and expense, a Trust can be a great option. For questions about or help with probate, or to discuss some of the benefits of avoiding it completely, call Asurest to set up an appointment.
This material is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Responses to inquiries, whether by email, telephone, or other means, do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create or imply the existence of an attorney-client relationship.
Disclaimer: This material is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Responses to inquiries, whether by email, telephone, or other means, do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create or imply the existence of an attorney-client relationship.