The word “probate” is a legal word derived from the Latin term “probare” which essentially means “to prove.” And while most legal matters are matters proven in court, the probate process in America is one that is all about proving some number crunching. The very first probate court in America launched in 1784, to provide for a court that existed solely to determine what assets were proven and then divided after death.
Probate court can be a lengthy and confusing process. If you have property in probate right now, eliminate some confusion by getting everything you need to know about the process right here.
What is the Probate Process?
In a nutshell, the probate process is the legal process that proves an individual’s assets and determines asset division upon their death. In many cases, a will is in place and this is the document that will serve as the law or ordaining legal principle that makes those determinations.
Once someone dies, the executor advises descendants of their expected inheritance. But even in the simplest of situations, a legal process generally has to occur before they will get their stake of a will.
And in some situations, a will does not exist, nor does an executor. So a probate court appoints someone to direct the assets, to mitigate squabbles and battles over anything from money to the family spoon used at Christmas.
First, the will is proven in court, and then the assets and liabilities are paid or expunged. The property appraisal occurs, and debts or taxes get paid from assets.
Once that process is complete, the remaining assets are divided among descendants. The entire process can take anywhere from a few months to a few years.
Does All Property Go Through Probate?
This process of waiting until probate is over to receive inheritances is the standard one. But there are many ways to access property before probate is over.
In some cases, a cash amount may be released for the short-term while probate proceedings go on.
And not all property must go through probate in its entirety.
In the state of California for example, as much as $100,000 in property can be passed to descendants without probate.
Putting property in trust also allows you to avoid the probate court process on those assets as well. A good probate lawyer can help you determine how to do this before you even prepare your will or estate plan.
If you already have property in probate, avoiding it at this point is not possible, and that’s why you need a good lawyer to help.
If the estate is not complicated, you may be able to go through a simplified process in your state. Or at the very least, you may be able to get some short-term funding approved for release before the probate court process is complete.
Spare Your Loved Ones. Probate.
As many as 55 percent of Americans do not have an estate plan or will.
This is why the process can take as long as two years to complete. Register today to get access to a comprehensive list of lawyers willing to help make the probate process easier for you.