When You are Dealing with So Much, We Can Help You Deal with the Probate Process. Creating Your Own Estate Plan Will Eliminate the Burden of Probate on Those You Love.
Probate is the court-supervised process of authenticating a person’s last will and testament. There are many steps to probate, including locating the person’s assets, determining their value, paying their final bills and taxes, and distributing the remainder of the estate to their rightful beneficiaries.
Why is probate necessary? Each state has specific laws determining what’s required to probate an estate. These are included in the estate’s probate codes, as well as laws for intestate succession, which refers to a person dying without a will. When this happens, probate pays the deceased person’s debts and distributes their estate.
Although probate laws can vary from state to state, regardless of whether a will exists, the steps involved in the process are very similar.
1. Authenticating the Last Will and Testament
Most state laws require that anyone in possession of the deceased’s will must file it with probate court as soon as possible. This is usually done at the same time as an application or petition to open probate of the estate is completed. You may also need to file the death certificate.
A probate judge must confirm the validity of an existing will, which often takes place during a court hearing. This event gives any beneficiaries and/or heirs listed in the will an opportunity to voice any objections to the will being admitted for probate. These can range from maintaining that the will might not have been drafted correctly to someone possessing a more recent will to disputing the appointed executor.
Determining whether the submitted will is legitimate relies on witnesses who have either already signed self-proving affidavits (where the decedent and witnesses sign an affidavit at the time the Will is signed and witnessed), sign a sworn statement, or testify in court, that they watched the decedent sign the will in question.
2. Appointing the Executor or a Personal Representative
Typically, the person chosen to be executor is named in the will. If no will exists, the court appoints someone to oversee the probate process and settle the estate. This person can decline to serve, at which point the court appoints someone else.
The appointed executor receives letters testamentary, (also known as letters of authority or letters of administration) which is the legal way of saying they’ll receive documentation allowing them to act and enter transactions on behalf of the estate.
The executor’s first task is finding, then taking possession of, all the decedent’s assets so they can protect them during the probate process. This can involve some detective work if there are assets that haven’t been designated in the will, but which still exist. The executor collects all the deceased’s financial information, including bank and investment accounts documentation, to help determine the value of the assets. This person is also responsible for notifying any creditors of the death and paying off valid claims and final bills with estate funds. Another duty is filing the decedent’s final personal income tax returns for the year they died. If the estate is liable for any estate taxes, those returns are filed and paid.
3. Distributing the Estate
After all these steps are complete, the executor can seek permission from the court to distribute whatever’s left of the decedent’s assets to the beneficiaries named in the will. Some states allow the estate’s beneficiaries to collectively waive this accounting requirement if they’re all in agreement it’s not necessary. Because minors can’t own their own property, if the will includes bequests to minors, the executor might be responsible for setting up a trust to accept possession of them.
Many people visit an estate attorney for the first time for help in dealing with probate after the death of a loved one. Avoiding probate is an important reason to make sure you have your own estate plan. Settling an estate shouldn’t involve damaging important relationships those you love or shortchange your emotional recovery. We understand how overwhelming probate can seem and have helped many clients in Richmond and Charlottesville get through the process with as little stress as possible.
Our probate services include:
• Initial strategy and planning meeting to get a feel for your situation
• Coaching session to discuss deadlines and overview
• Help and coaching to prepare you for the qualification meeting
• Preparation of required probate documents (notice requirements, inventory, etc.)
• Estate distribution and accounting
Making the trip to a lawyer’s office to have a difficult conversation is one of the last things anyone wants to do. That’s why we’re happy to come to you at your convenience to discuss options in the comfort of your own home. Or, if you prefer, we can offer advice over the phone. Our estate attorneys been serving Richmond and Charlottesville for many years, and we treat every client with respect and compassion. Together we’ll put a plan in place to ease your burden, keep the peace with your family, and minimize the interference this responsibility has in your life.
Give us a call at (804) 805-4220 to make an appointment. Your peace of mind starts with Asurest.