According to U.S. News & World Report, probate is the process of taking assets from a recently deceased person and providing them to the person’s heirs. Probate also entails proving that the person’s will is valid and paying off creditors, after which heirs receive the remaining assets.
The estate planning actions you take now have a major effect on probate and its outcome. Here are a few things you can do to ensure success.
Which assets are subject to probate?
Any assets or property provided to heirs via a will is subject to a probate hearing. This includes things like cars, homes, savings, accounts, personal belongings, and other items. Additionally, any assets not included in the will and not covered by another estate planning tool, such as a trust, will also go through probate.
Which are not?
Any assets placed into a trust bypass probate, since these assets pass directly to heirs upon death. Assets with named beneficiaries, such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts, also avoid probate. Jointly held property is also protected, as it immediately passes to the co-owner.
How long does probate take?
It usually depends on the size of the estate and the complexity of the probate process. While simple estates may only take a few months, others can go through probate for one or more years. The process typically takes longer when there are disputes about an estate, such as when a family member contests the validity of a will.
While you cannot always avoid probate, your estate planning decisions can reduce many complications. A solid, legally-binding will is your best defense against a lengthy and expensive probate process.