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Probate is a process by which a Will, Trust, or other similar device is used to transfer assets of a decedent to the objects of his or her bounty. Although most people see the probate process as a complicated and uncomfortable process, given the right advice, it can be quite simple. In most cases, probate of a decedent's Will can be done through an informal process requiring no court appearances by the decedent's Personal Representative. In the event of a contest or other dispute, a formal probate process is required.
One should note that no probate is required for assets which are jointly held between a decedent and another party, or for assets which have beneficiary designations (i.e. life insuance, 401(k) plans, IRAs, and similar investment vehicles). Given an individual's estate value, however, it may or may not be prudent to have assets jointly held.
When faced with a potential probate, consultation with an attorney experienced in estate administration is critical. Attorney Bell has considerable experience in the probate process and is prepared to give you the most practical advice for estate administration matters.
If a person dies with a Will, he or she is said to die "testate." If a person dies without a Will, he or she is said to die "intestate." By execution of a Will or other appropriate estate planning documents, one can insure that his or her assets pass to those individuals to whom the decedent intended. In the event of an intestasy, the State assumes that certain individuals are your beneficiaries. These individuals may, in fact, not be individuals to whom you have intended to transfer assets. As a result, appropriate estate planning is required. Most people do not realize that if a person dies intestate and has a surviving spouse and children, the surviving spouse does NOT receive the entire estate. The Esate is divided among the surving spouse and children. This can create significant difficulty if there is any family discord. In addition, if a person dies and leaves a surviving spouse, the surviving spouse is, by operation of law, entitled to one-third (1/3) of the estate of the decedent. This applies even if an individual disinherits his or her spouse. As a result of the intricacies of the probate procees, an experienced estate planning attorney is needed. In certain cases, probate can be avoided altogether. In the event that probate is required, we can help guide you through the process.
"I want to leave my children enough that they feel they can do anything, but not so much that they do nothing."
JOHANN KASPAR LAVATER
"Never say you know a man until you have divided an inheritance with him."
RUTH E. RENKEL