All wills are subject to a process known as probate. Accordingly, it is important that you understand how the probate process works. With probate, the court will review your will to ensure it is legally binding. From there, the court will use your assets to pay off any remaining debt, then distribute the remainder according to the terms of your last will and testament.
While probate can be intimidating, the process is often misunderstood by estate planners. Here are a few important facts to consider for your peace of mind.
What happens during probate?
The attorney usually contacts the family first to determine whether they have any objections to the will. If not, the attorney will prepare the necessary documents and have heirs sign waivers that show they agree with the terms of the will. The family must then attend a court hearing, which involves identifying assets and creditors, paying debts, and getting money to heirs. While it depends on the details of the estate, the probate process can take as long as one to two years in some cases.
What goes through probate and what does not?
Any property or assets included within the last will and testament goes through the probate process. Additionally, any property not included in the will is also subject to probate. This includes cars, homes, savings accounts, and other assets. Without a will, the court disperses these items to heirs according to the laws in the state.
Some items will not go through probate. For instance, any assets placed into a trust do not go through probate. If you have a retirement account or life insurance policy with named beneficiaries, proceeds from these accounts pass directly to heirs upon death. Any assets co-owned with another party will also pass to that party after you die.