Many of us will eventually be required to take part in the process of probating the estate of a loved one. Each state has its own laws which determine the step-by-step process of probating an estate, including determining how creditors will be paid and how the remaining property will be divided among the heirs. The probate process can be technical and often complicated. There is specific paperwork that must be completed and filed with the court and firm deadlines must be met. The detailed requirements, set out by law, must be followed to the letter. Sexton, Bailey Attorneys, PA is experienced at handling probate matters, from beginning to end.
What is probate and when is it required?
Probate is one of the principal legal matters handled by estate planning attorneys. It is the administration of your estate through probate court, after your death. This purpose of the process is to transfer your estate, to heirs or beneficiaries, in an organized and supervised manner. Whether you die with a valid will or you die intestate, your estate will be subject to probate, with few exceptions.
If you have a valid will in place, that legal document will determine how your estate is transferred during the probate process. If you do not have a will, or if your will only deals with a portion of your estate, your assets will still be required to go through probate. Without a will, the laws in your state determine who will inherit your property.
Is probate always required?
Not always. In fact, it is not difficult to avoid the probate process by using several estate planning tools to ensure that your property passes to your heirs in the way you desire. For example, joint ownership of property or assets, revocable living trusts, gifts and pay-on-death accounts, can accomplish the transfer of your property without probate.
How Expensive is Probate?
Fees for probate and estate planning services differ from one law firm to the next. The amount and type of work that is required also differs from one client to the next. Some attorneys charge a flat fee, while others bill on an hourly basis with certain minimum charges. Regardless of the method, the fees must be fair and reasonable.
In addition to attorney’s fees, there are other fees you can expect to pay during the probate process, such as court fees and personal representative fees, which are set by state law. There are also other miscellaneous fees that may be incurred depending on the nature of the estate. These can include the cost of postage to mail notices to the personal representative and beneficiaries and to mail documents to the court and taxing authorities; the cost of insuring and storing personal property; shipping personal property; and the cost of moving personal property.
Avoiding probate, however, does not avoid the need to pay some legal fees. That is because, probate avoidance through living wills or jointly-owned assets still creates tax issues that must be addressed and usually require the services of an attorney. If you have questions regarding the probate process, or any other estate planning needs, please contact Sexton, Bailey Attorneys, PA online, or by calling us at (479) 443-0062.