Q: What is probate?
A: Probate is the process through which you retitle assets into the names of beneficiaries of an estate as well as dispense with creditors.
Q: Can you avoid probate?
A: There are multiple ways to avoid probate, which can include deeds, beneficiary designations, and/or the use of trusts.
Q: How do you start the probate process?
A: You must apply to open a probate either to get the will admitted to probate in order validate it or to declare who the heirs are of the person that passed. This application starts the process, which is then followed up with a hearing to get someone appointed as executor or administrator. The exact process will be determined by the individual circumstances and family make-up.
Q: What if there is no will?
A: You will need to apply to open a probate and do what is called a Determination of Heirship in order for the court to enter an Order declaring the legal heirs of the estate. This requires that you hire an attorney to represent you in applying for probate of the estate, and the court will require appointing a second attorney to conduct an investigation and verify the legal heirs of the estate. This can be time consuming and expensive compared to having a properly drafted Will in place to probate.
Q: What assets are subject to probate?
A: Any assets that are titled (i.e. car, real estate) or personal assets such as jewelry, furniture, guns are probate assets. Accounts where there is a beneficiary designated to receive assets upon the account holder’s death are considered non-probate assets because they pass outside of probate and to the person named as beneficiary regardless of what the Will states. However, if there are no beneficiaries named on financial accounts (i.e. checking, savings, brokerage), they will be owned by the estate and will pass through the probate estate and be distributed in accordance with the Will or the way state law dictates assets are transferred when there is no Will.
Estate Planning FAQs
Q: How much will it cost to draft my estate planning documents?
A: Every case is different, so it’s hard to estimate an exact price. We do offer a 30-minute free consultation so we can get a better understanding of your needs and wishes, which will likely give us enough information to provide you with a flat fee quote. *Note: additional fees may apply for consultations longer than the allotted 30 minutes.
Q: How long will it take to get my estate planning documents drafted?
A: One to four weeks depending on your needs and the complexity involved.
Q: What happens if you pass away without a will?
A: Your family members, including your spouse, will have to go through a court procedure called a Determination of Heirship, which is lengthy, expensive, and can be stressful to those you leave behind. That expense is likely more than the cost of having your documents drafted by an attorney.