Needs And Exceptions That Call For Probate

Probate is the process of dealing with the estate of someone who has passed away. Many might question the need for this process when so many other methods of distributing the property of the deceased exist. Probate is much more than a way to pass along assets. Probate not only provides a process to hand down bequeathed property, but it also takes care of directing the payment of bills of the estate and other issues. Read on to find out when probate is required when dealing with an estate and when it might not be.

A Word About Small Estates

There are some cases where the probate process is considerably shorter and simpler or when probate can be skipped entirely. Every state has provisions for so-called "small" estates. Whether the estate is judged to be small enough to qualify for simplified or skipped probate actions depends on the estate's value, which varies by state. In general, however, if the assets of the estate are less than $100,000 or so, it might qualify for a shortened procedure.

Estate Assets

Any of the below are considered estate property:

  • Vehicles, including cars, recreational vehicles, boats, trailers, jet skis, all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles, etc.
  • Contents of homes and personal possessions – Jewelry, artwork, silver items, antiques, furs, etc.
  • Bank accounts, including both savings and checking accounts.
  • Investment and retirement accounts.
  • Business interests.
  • Stocks and bonds.
  • Precious metals like gold and silver bars, coins, ingots, etc.

In most cases, a form requesting that a small estate be granted that status must be filled out and approved by the probate court.

Property Held Jointly

If the decedent owned property titled in both their name and a second party's name, probate is used to ensure the property can be re-titled by the survivor. Cars, bank accounts, and real estate frequently fall into this category.

Property Owned by the Deceased Alone

The will is examined for beneficiaries to the property and then passed over to them.

No Last Will and Testament

If the decedent passed away intestate, or not having a valid will, there are probate procedures to deal with the situation. The probate court will appoint an executor or personal representative to administer the estate. They will need to work in tandem with a probate lawyer to pay the bills that the deceased left behind. All states have rules of succession to deal with how the estate is distributed. Usually, the next of kin receives the entire estate after estate expenses are paid.

Probate is meant to ensure that beneficiaries and creditors of the estate are treated fairly. To find out more, speak to a probate lawyer.