What is probate? The probate process is described as the legal steps that take place after someone dies which determine how the deceased’s assets will be distributed.
Probate is the formal court proceeding required to determine who is entitled to inherit a property. The purpose of this proceeding is to prove that the deceased’s will is valid and that it’s executed under the laws of Massachusetts, or whichever state you live in.
Once the will is declared valid by the probate court, the court will appoint the executor and issue a certificate of appointment. The executor can then use the certificate of appointment to liquidate the deceased’s assets.
It is possible to avoid probate with careful planning. This is desirable for some people because doing so not only reduces legal fees, but also it means avoiding the estate tax, which can take a significant amount of a very wealthy estate. Avoiding probate can also protect privacy, since some of the records may not be available to the public. In the case that you do proceed with probate, here are the steps below.
- File a petition to begin probate. Begin by filing the petition with the probate court to either admit the will to probate court and appoint the executor, or if there is no will appoint an administrator to the estate.
- Give notice to all creditors of the estate. The personal representative sends a written notice to all creditors of the estate.
- Inventory all assets of the estate. A inventory is taken of all of decedent’s probate property, including real estate property, stocks, bonds, business interests, among other assets. For non-cash assets, an appraiser is hired by the estate to appraise them.
- Handle bills and debts. The personal representative will determine which creditors claims are legitimate if any, and pay those as well as the final bills of the estate.
- Distribute remaining assets. The personal representative will petition the court for authority to transfer the remaining assets to beneficiaries as directed in the decedent’s last will and testament. If there wasn’t a will, then it will be distributed according to state intestate succession laws.
In conclusion, a properly drafted will, updated regularly to account for life changes, as well as organized records of debts, personal property and other assets will make your life, and your family’s, much easier throughout this process. The easier it is for your personal representative to trace your steps after you’re gone, the easier the process.
Take the first step in making your life as well as also your loved ones’ easier by starting your estate plan. We at Tramontozzi Law specialize in estate planning in Middlesex County and Essex County, Massachusetts as your trusted adviser and partner in this process. We invite you to learn more about our estate planning services here.