Whether someone has a will or not, their estate has to go through the probate process when they pass away, which often takes a long time and has significant costs to the people involved. In the case of those with a will, the executor named in the will handles the process. For cases without a will, the probate court will name an administrator to carry out the needed duties.
Steps involved in the probate process
At the outset, the executor or administrator has to:
- Locate and inventory all of the assets
- Pay any debts, including credit card and medical bills
- Prepare and file state and federal tax returns
- Resolve any issues regarding the validity of a will or trust
Because of all the tasks involved, the heirs and beneficiaries will often have to wait a long time before they receive the assets to which they are entitled.
How to minimize the burden of probate
There are a number of ways to protect your loved ones from the burden of probate. You can establish a trust and contribute assets to it. If those assets are properly retitled, they are owned by the trust and not by your estate, meaning they do not have to go through the probate process. The proceeds of your life insurance policies and retirement accounts that have valid beneficiary designations also pass outside of probate.
How an attorney can help
If you want to spare your loved ones from going through the probate process, you can start by meeting with an experienced estate planning and administration attorney. Legal counsel can help you prepare an appropriate estate plan or review your existing documents and make appropriate changes.