Probate is the process of reviewing a deceased person’s will to ensure its validity and that all their assets are properly distributed to their beneficiaries. In real estate, this process must be overseen by a probate court in the county where the decedent passed. Knowing the probate process is crucial to preparing for the distribution of your assets to your loved ones after you pass.
The Probate Process
When a person dies, the court appoints an executor that is identified by the decedent’s will as the designated referee of the probate process. If there is no will present, the court identifies and appoints an executor that they see as a good fit for the job. Examples of the executor’s duties include collecting the decedent’s assets, paying off liabilities and taxes on the decedent’s behalf, filing the decedent’s final income tax returns, distributing assets to beneficiaries identified by the will, or determining beneficiaries in cases where the will does not identify them.
The probate court orders inventory to be taken of the estate in order to have the values of the assets calculated. Once the executor has carried out their duties and the value of the assets have been determined, the court authorizes the distribution of these assets.
How Does the Court Determine Distribution of Assets?
When there is no will present, the court usually uses state laws to guide the distribution of assets. For instance, Nevada courts will likely divide distribution of assets between the decedent’s spouse and children. Spouses are generally recognized as joint property owners, so the court usually starts the distribution process with the spouse and then goes to the children. Close friends are not usually deemed beneficiaries unless specifically identified in the will or other special cases.
Why is Probate Important?
If you are at a point in your life where you are thinking about where your assets will go after you die, it is important to consider how the probate process will go. With or without a will, probate is costly, complex, invasive, and emotionally exhausting. It’s important to think about how to make this process easiest on your loved ones.
Look into your state’s requirements. Some treat probate as mandatory in all cases, whereas some offer an exception if your estate is less than a certain value. Some assets might also not be required to be transferred to beneficiaries, such as pension plans, 401ks, savings and retirement accounts, and more. Consider laws regarding these in your state as you determine who you want to be your executor and beneficiaries. Seek out advice from a professional lawyer or real estate agent regarding your estate.
If you or someone you know needs assistance with the probate process, please call our office at 702-583-3030.
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