Never say you know a man until you have divided an inheritance with him.”
– Johann Kaspar Lavater
If you know what probate is, you have probably participated in it in some fashion. Maybe you were appointed as an Executor or Administrator. Maybe you were an heir of a probated estate.
Hopefully, it was not a long-drawn out affair or contentious circumstance.
Probate is the public review and administration of a decedent’s assets and liabilities, the settling of obligations, and transfer of assets to heirs. The process involves a court or magistrate. The court appoints the personal representative to administer the process.
If the person who died had a Last Will probated by the court, the court will consider a person nominated in the Will to be personal representative. If the court appoints that person, the person is referred to as an Executor. If there is a Last Will, the probate is a testate probate. The Will normally includes a distribution plan for the decedent’s assets.
If no Last Will exists or it is invalid, then the process is called an intestate probate. The court will review requests by persons seeking to be appointed as the personal representative of the estate. The court will request that heirs of the estate confirm the request. If there are no challenges, then the court will appoint the person as the Administrator of the Estate. If there are multiple requests or challenges to an appointment, the process can be drawn out for weeks or even months. This can cause real problems for an estate, as there is no person who can take control to pay bills, taxes, maintain the property, stop recurring services, etc.
Whether intestate or testate, there are number of procedures that need to be followed. Beyond the necessary court filings, other requirements include:
Sending notification letters creditors,
Publishing announcements a local newspaper,
Paying final decedent’s expenses,
Filing final decedent’s taxes and estate taxes,
Completing estate accounting,
Filing final court documents,
Making distributions to heirs, and
Closing the estate
The process can range from 6 months to several years.
Unsupervised or Supervised Estate
Many probate estates are pretty straight-forward, without challenges, and not high value. In these situations, the court may find that, once the appropriate personal representative is appointed, he or she should have the freedom to administer the estate without constant court involvement. This is an unsupervised estate. The administer is still bound to fiduciary duties and responsibility to the heirs. In addition, the probate process must be followed. An unsupervised probate usually costs less to complete because there is less court and attorney involvement. The personal representative works independently to accomplish the necessary tasks. The heirs are protected from a personal representative who does not follow the necessary procedures. They can challenge an action or lack of action with the court. The court may find it appropriate to convert the probate into a supervised estate.
The primary difference with a supervised estate is the constant involvement of the court or magistrate. Before an expense is paid, distribution made,
How can we help you?
You have specific needs to address your circumstances. Wills, powers of attorney, trusts, and other documents may be part of your estate plan. The best way to start, in order to better understand what you need to protect yourself, your family, and the things you own, is to talk with an experienced professional about your goals and your concerns. We invite you to contact our office to set up a time to meet for an initial consultation. The initial, thirty minute consultation is complimentary and can be a great way to get started in the process of building a plan to meet your specific situation.