Probate isn’t a commonly known field of law, but you would be remiss in protecting yourself if you didn’t know what probate is. So, what is it? Probate is a broad field of law that includes important legal hearings and procedures such as deceased estates, guardianships, conservatorships, trusts and more. For any regular Joe Six-Pack, there’s still a lot of questions to be asked. “Why do I need probate” is a common question. Let’s take a look at a specific subset of probate law – deceased estates and estate planning – to show how important probate can be, and should be, to you.
Understanding the Concept
To understand what the concept of probate is, we need to take a deeper look into this subject, with focus on the assets and estates. So, what’s an estate and what’s an asset? Both are intertwined with one another. An asset is a property owned by an individual. A chair in your home office is an example of an asset. The estate encompasses all of the assets in which you own. Now that we have a basic understanding of estates and assets, let’s talk about how it all works together in probate.
Understanding how Probate works
Now that we know the basics of assets and estates, we can ask ourselves “what is probate” and get an answer. for a deceased individual is the process in which the individual’s assets within his or her estate are distributed pursuant to a will, or if there is no will, the laws of intestate succession. How these assets within the estate are distributed is what’s important. There are two types of probate administration and understanding the differences is important.
Let’s assume someone with assets of interest has passed away. You can’t just say that you claim the assets for yourself. If the decedent did not leave a will and did not beneficiary designate his or her assets, then the laws of intestacy will control the distribution of the individual’s assets. By definition, intestacy is the state of dying without a will. The intestacy laws can vary in each state, so it is important to contact an attorney in the state where the decedent resided to understand how the assets will be distributed. If you want to control what happens to your assets once you pass away, instead of the government, you must create an estate plan.
Prevent Intestacy with an Estate Plan
An estate plan can serve many purposes including who makes decisions for you if you become incapacitated, what happens to your assets when you pass away, and who will care for your minor children if you pass away. With a will, an individual can dictate to the court who is going to be responsible for administering the estate assets and how the assets within the estate are to be distributed. However, a will does not allow you to get out of probate court. A will is an asset distribution playbook for the court to follow. We receive calls on a daily basis where someone does not leave an estate plan and most or all of an individual’s assets go to an estranged or distant family member, which the decedent never would have intended. To avoid this happening to your family, it is highly recommended to consult with an estate planning attorney.
Writing an estate plan by yourself can be difficult. Whether you are contemplating drafting your own estate plan or have had a loved one pass away recently with or without a will, you’ll want to consult a competent, experienced probate attorney. At The Probate Pro, all we do is probate. We’ll go over the probate process, estate planning and so much more. If you have more questions on what probate is, call us today at 833-PROBATE.