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Probate Process and Estate Planning

The probate process and estate planning always work simultaneously when it comes to distribution of assets and property of the deceased to their legal heirs and other beneficiaries of the estate. A probate process is impossible to avoid; however, it is definitely possible to significantly reduce the time period consumed by the probate process in a probate court. Even if the estate had been accounted for fully and the assets are distributed to the legal heirs and beneficiaries in accordance with the Last Will and Testament, a probate process is indispensable. But if you can reduce the time consumed by probate court, it will also mean lesser fees and lower taxes that accompany any probate process.

What is a Probate Process?

The local authorities have enacted some statutes and laws in order to settle an estate after the demise of the estate owner. These statutes require a process, known as a Probate Process, to be followed in order to complete the formalities of settlement of an estate of the deceased. This process is carried out in a court, called the Probate Court, which finally confirms and validate the last will and testament of the deceased, who is the last owner of the estate.

Estate planning and the probate court are vital tools that ensure fairness in the probate process. In fact, it is these two tools that are entrusted with the task of ensuring that the last wishes and directives of the estate owner are fully respected and executed in the manner desired by the deceased.

Death Testate and Intestate

In case the estate owner left behind a proper will (and thus, died testate), it shall be the duty of the executor so named in the will to ensure that the wishes of the estate owner are fulfilled. However, if the estate owner died without leaving any valid will (intestate), it shall be incumbent upon the probate court to appoint an administrator who will be duty-bound to supervise the distribution of assets and property of the deceased, payment of requisite taxes, and settlement of all outstanding claims against the estate as per the applicable local intestacy laws.

Steps Involved in Probate Process

  1. In case of a valid will, the probate court will formally recognize the executor to supervise the entire Probate process; and in case of no valid will, the probate court will formally appoint an administrator who will oversee the probate process.
  2. The executor or the administrator (as the case may be) shall validate the will before the probate court.
  3. The executor or the administrator (as the case may be) will itemize and make a formal inventory of the estate owner’s assets and property.
  4. Notification to all the beneficiaries and heirs.
  5. Notification to all the creditors who have a valid claim against the estate.
  6. Payment of all outstanding taxes and debts.
  7. In accordance with the will or local applicable intestacy laws, distribution of remaining assets and property to the heirs and beneficiaries.

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