Probate, based on its connotation, can seem like a scary word. But it isn’t so much the word itself, it’s what is attached to it and what it implies.
What Happens During Probate Administration?
The simplest definition of probate is that it is a legal proceeding, overseen by a judge, in which a deceased person’s estate is made public, and a will is adjudicated for its validity. If a will is not present or is deemed invalid by the court, the probate hearing puts the onus on the judge to determine how and to whom the assets in the estate are to be distributed.
The scary part is not the hearing itself. It’s the loss of control that the family has when you don’t leave a will and leave your estate in the hands of a probate court. If you find yourself in a probate situation, though, you do not have to be alone in the process. We have experienced probate administration attorneys who can help navigate you through the entire probate process to ensure that the estate is handled in a respectful and ethical manner and is resolved efficiently.
What is an Administrator?
When you have a will, you will name a person to execute the will. This person is called an executor. When there is no will in place, the court will designate a probate administrator, which has the same role as the executor, except he or she executes the estate according to the court’s decisions and not by the wishes of the deceased.
Why? Because the wishes are not known.
There are two types of probate administration, and our professional probate administration attorneys can advise you on the type that fits your needs. One is called independent administration, which is where the administrator does his or her duty with minimal or no supervision from the court. So a dependent administration would be, of course, one in which the court provides direct oversight of the administration of the estate.
Some of the most-common duties of the administrator are as follows:
- File a petition with the court in the county of residence of the deceased.
- Make contact with any known or potential beneficiaries and heirs, either in the will or as dictated by law.
- Send probate notices to all creditors, both secured and unsecured.
- Take inventory of all the assets in the estate and make an assessment of their value or worth.
- Pay the outstanding debts out of the liquid assets available on hand or from the liquidation of any assets.
- With the assets that are left, distribute them to beneficiaries and/or heirs according to the will or the dictates of the court.
What Happens Regarding A Property Transfer?
Every so often, there is some property that may not need to be included in the probate administration. In this case – which only involves property and heirs specifically named in a valid will – there is a process called muniment of title, which is available in some states.
Muniment is a fancy way of saying “transfer,” which involves a probate attorney (not an estate administrator) making a simple legal transfer of title of property (home, car, etc.) to the designated heir or beneficiary. This is a more cost-effective way to transfer a property asset than through an administrator, but it’s not always available depending on where you live.
Other Probate Services
Our probate administration attorneys are well-versed in various other probate services that may be necessary. Whether it’s filling out specific documents on your behalf, or walking through an administrative process with you, we can help.
Other probate-related services we provide include:
- Determination of Heirship: If there is an estate without a will or a will deemed invalid, a person could file a petition with the probate court to determine heirship rights to the assets in the estate. This is a process that takes several steps, and a professional can advise you on the process and wil even attend hearing on your behalf.
- Small Estate Affidavit: Sometimes there are estates that are so small that an administrator and probate court may be too cost-prohibitive. In this case, the estate could be probated through a Small Estate Affidavit. This is not available to all small estates; certain requirements are needed, and your probate attorney can advise you on this option.
- Affidavit of Heirship: In a few unusual situations, this document can make asset transfers easier by establishing proof of identity of heirs in a will that has not yet been probated or in an estate where there is no will.
- Family Settlement Agreement: This is where negotiation comes into play. This agreement is a settlement of an estate that is contested either from a lack of a will, or a will that has conflicting or confusing instructions.
Contact Our Probate Administration Attorneys Today!
The best way to avoid probate is all about doing a lot of work up front while you’re alive, to prevent even more work and heartache for your survivors. However, in teh event of a sudden death, probate court is an option to resolve an estate, but it can be the most challenging option.
Our probate lawyers will always pursue or defend an estate in probate court, but it’s never too late to set up an estate plan so your loved ones don’t have to go through the expense and aggravation of legal proceedings. Contact one of our probate and estate planning attorneys and get a free, confidential consultation regarding your situation and we’ll customize our advice for yo so you know the options available to you.