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What is Probate?  Part 2

NOTE:  This is a continuation of the previous blog post “What is Probate?” Part 1, click here to visit the first part of this blog post.

Do all assets have to go through the probate process?

Not necessarily. The following are assets that are free of probate:

• Jointly owned real and personal property goes to the surviving owners.

• Insurance policies and annuities directly payable to a named beneficiary bypass probate.

• 401(k) accounts, IRAs and other such transfer automatically to beneficiaries.

• Bank accounts that are set as “payable-on-death” or in trust to a named beneficiary will also bypass probate.

• If a living trust holds legal title to some of your property, then that also passes directly to the beneficiaries.

Are there estates that are too small for probate?

Each state has certain simplified procedures for estates whose value goes below a certain limit. However, if there are creditor claims against the estate, it may make more sense to go through the whole probate process. Do consult with a lawyer to find out which one may be a better process for a small estate.

Who should I contact for proper management of the probate process?

If you feel that you may be in over your head handling the estate, you should then ask the help of an accountant, a lawyer, and the courts. This isn’t unusual, particularly in cases where the estate has a high level of complexity due to either its sheer size, or the number of claims against it. Factor in inheritance tax and other taxes that have to be paid, credit cards and other payables to be paid and cancelled, assets or properties that are somehow not included in the probate process, and the whole concept of probate administration may truly need professional help. This is where probate attorneys and accountants who specialize in probate processes come in.

What if the will itself is contested?

The basics for challenging a will are as follows:

• The will was not properly drawn up to legal requirements.

• The decedent lacked mental capacity at the time the will was drawn up.

• Force, fraud, or undue influence was involved.

• The will is a forgery.

In many cases, the will is contested to make sure that the personal representative is changed or replaced.

If you have any questions regarding the Estate Planning for yourself or your family members please give us a call or shoot us a message:

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