Exploring Social Security Cases and Outcomes

What Family Members Can Expect With The Probate Process

by Marie Caldwell

The period after a loved one's death can be filled with sadness and confusion. Knowing that the will should be filed, and the probate process will begin doesn't send any comfort to loved ones dealing with the estate. Read on to find out more about what to expect when it comes to probate.

Is Probate Necessary?

Some smaller estates can either be excused from probate or be subject to a shortened process. The deciding factor is the value of the estate, and it varies by state. The contents of the estate include any real estate, vehicles, bank and investment accounts, precious metals, bonds, business interests, and more.

What if No Will is Located?

Probate will still go forward even if no will can be found. The state decides how the estate is distributed and the rules of succession vary. However, the current spouse of the deceased and any biological or legally adopted children are usually first on the list of beneficiaries.

What About Skipping Probate?

When someone mentions skipping probate, they are probably referring to taking certain assets and keeping them away from probate using a variety of methods. Some of those are:

  • Special deeds that allow real estate to go directly to those named on the deed.
  • Special vehicle titles that go directly to a named individual or using an affidavit.
  • Bank accounts with payable-on-death provisions.
  • Investment accounts with transfer-on-death provisions.
  • Trusts that include almost all the rest of the estate property.

Probate Begins

The probate lawyer will file the will in the county where the deceased resided, and a personal representative or executor is named. The court must approve and officially appoint the personal representative. The lawyer will also place a notice in a local newspaper inviting anyone who believes the deceased owes them money to come forward and file a claim.

During Probate

In many cases, the personal representative appointed is a family member but that is not always the case. No matter who is appointed, however, family members should expect the personal representative to keep them apprised of all probate and estate actions. The personal representative takes their orders from both the probate lawyer and the probate court, and their actions must never be in favor of their own personal gain. Speak to a lawyer if you think the personal representative is exceeding their powers.

As Probate Closes

Some property can be dispersed before the end of probate in some states and situations. For example, a home may be sold during probate. As probate closes, all beneficiaries should be provided with access to their inhered assets.

To find out more, speak to a probate lawyer.