When a Loved One Dies

When a loved one dies, the first legal concern is whether an estate has to go through probate.  People hear horror stories about how estates get tied up for years and at great cost.  Sometimes it can be a nightmare, while other times, the process can be fairly painless.

Technically, “probate” is the court process of proving the validity of a Will. But the definition has expanded to mean the court supervised administration of a decedent’s estate, whether or not the decedent had a Will.

The first consideration is whether or not the decedent has any probate property.  A discussion of what is probate and what is non-probate property appears here.  If all of the decedent’s property is non-probate, the process is fairly straightforward.  If the decedent had a Will, the Will is to be filed with the court.  Absent a dispute between the beneficiaries, there would likely be no further court involvement.

Usually people have a mix of probate and non-probate property.  For the probate property, if there is a Will, it is filed with the court.  Depending on the value of the probate property, the estate may require a full administration, or if the estate is not too large, a shorter proceeding, commonly known as a Release of Assets, can be used.

The administration of non-probate property is handled outside of court supervision.  Typically, a death certificate - and perhaps a claim form or some other paperwork - must be submitted to the institution holding the decedent’s assets.  After the claim is processed, the assets are paid to the beneficiary of the account.

If you need help determining what you need to do, please contact us.  We can help you transfer the non-probate assets to the beneficiaries, and, if needed, help you through the probate court processes.

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