What is the benefit of the probate process?
Probate is a legal process by which a court validates a deceased individual’s will. If they did not leave a will, the court has jurisdiction over the distribution of the deceased’s estate. After the loss of a loved one, families may have to go through probate for legal reasons. Although probate is typically portrayed as a long and drawn out process, it can be concluded in a pretty timely manner and not as expensive as it seems.
- It Provides an Orderly Forum for Resolving Family Disputes. The passing of a close family member can be very emotional. It can be very easy to get into fights with family members because your stress level is so high. The probate process allows those who have questions or issues with any part of a will to address them formally with the court. A judge may decide to make a ruling on his or her own, ask that an individual reconsider his or her challenge or have the matter resolved through mediation.
- Probate Allows for the Timely Transfer of Assets. Whether a person has a will or not, the ability to go through probate means that family members and others get their inheritance in a timely manner. If a person has been divorced or has a complex family situation, it may not always be clear who should receive an asset. Divorce lawyers often aim to separate a couple’s assets for this reason, but in some cases it is not easy to do so. Probate allows a judge to use state law to make sure that whoever has the strongest claim or who may benefit the most from an asset is the one who gets it.
- Probate Allows for a Thorough Accounting of an Estate. If a deceased person left a will, the executor named in that will can start inventorying assets and taking care of any outstanding debts. An executor may also be able to put a fair market value on assets for tax purposes. If there is no will, an administrator will be named to handle those duties. Once debt and tax matters are taken care of, remaining assets can then be handed down to beneficiaries.
- Probate Verifies the Validity of a Will. To be considered valid, a will must be signed by two witnesses above the legal age of 18. This is generally true of any codicils or other pages added to the will after it is first written. In most cases, a will must be typed to be considered valid, but a handwritten version may be accepted in certain circumstances. Those who are named heirs in a will or should have been named as an heir will be contacted and given the opportunity to challenge the will if necessary.
- Creditors Have a Contact Person. When a person dies, it may be harder for a creditor to collect on that debt if an estate doesn’t go through probate. When it does, creditors can talk to the executor of the estate and ensure that they receive what they are owed. An executor may also be able to close credit accounts as part of the probate process after a person dies. As a general rule, probate provides an orderly way to settle a person’s affairs. The executor may be able to work with the court to properly file income taxes, settle debts and ensure that disputes related to property or other matters are resolved properly and in a timely manner.