Have you thought about how your assets are going to be distributed after your death? Probably not! We know it can be a difficult topic to approach. While no one really likes to think about death, there are many important things you need to know about the legal process surrounding wills and probate. Here is how a Probate attorney can help.
Probate is the name of the legal process of how your assets are distributed after your death. The process can happen in two ways:
- Testate, which means the person died with a will.
- Or intestate, meaning the person died without a will.
There are many things that you probably don’t think about on a daily basis that will need to be handled in the intestate probate of a will if proper estate planning is not put into place. If the process is intestate, then a probate attorney is appointed as the executor of a will.
The executor is in charge of certain duties not handled by wills or trusts.
These duties include:
- the identification and safekeeping of all the decedent’s assets,
- notification of the heirs,
- notification and payment to creditors,
- payment of taxes and administrative expenses,
- and distribution of the assets to the beneficiaries.
Simple estates, in which there is no litigation or complicated issues such as having to file estate tax returns, comprise the majority of cases. The probate process for these estates takes about six months. More complex estates can take about one to two years to administer.
A shorter process, known as Summary Administration is available if the person has been deceased for more than two years, or the value of the assets is less than $75,000.
There are many people and organizations your probate attorney will coordinate, depending on the facts of the situation:
- Clerk of the circuit court in the county in which the decedent lived at the time of their death.
- Circuit court judge.
- The personal representative (or executor).
- Probate Attorney providing legal advice to the personal representative throughout the probate process.
- People and organizations filing claims in the probate proceeding relative to debts incurred by the decedent. An example may include credit card issuers and health care providers.
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), regarding federal income taxes that the decedent and their estate may owe. In the event of federal gift, estate or generation-skipping transfer tax matters the IRS will also get involved.
For further inquiries regarding the probate process or for a consultation with a probate attorney please contact us.