Probate Wills

Probate Wills:

A will is a legal document that allows you to determine what happens to your money, property and possessions after you pass away. It lets you decide who gets what and how much. Having a properly written and valid will ensures your final wishes are carried out. 

A probate will is a will that goes through the court supervised probate process after you die. This verifies the will is valid and authorizes the executor to carry out the instructions in the will. Probate gives legal authority to the executor to gather your assets, pay debts and taxes, and distribute property to your heirs according to your wishes.

Why Probate a Will?

The probate process serves an important purpose. It prevents fraud and ensures the instructions in your will are properly followed. Probate confirms the will is your last valid will and was not revoked or superseded by a newer will. The court also confirms the executor named in the will is qualified to serve. 

Probate also involves collecting assets, paying debts and taxes owed by the estate, and distributing property to beneficiaries. The probate process provides court supervision of these tasks.

When is Probate Required?

Probate is usually required if you own property or assets in your individual name at death. Assets owned jointly with rights of survivorship pass directly to the surviving co-owner and don’t require probate. Assets like 401ks, IRAs and life insurance with named beneficiaries also avoid probate. 

Benefits of Probate:

Alternatives to Probate

Certain estate plans can minimize or avoid the probate process. This is often done through the use of trusts or by titling property in joint tenancy with rights of survivorship.

Living trusts are a popular probate avoidance tool. You transfer ownership of assets into the trust while alive. The trust distributes assets to beneficiaries at death without probate.

Other options to avoid probate include payable on death accounts and transfer on death designations for financial accounts. Life insurance and retirement accounts with properly named beneficiaries also avoid probate.