What is Probate?
Probate is a process which occurs when a person dies, and a court must dispose of the property of the decedent (person who passed away). The decedent may have certain debts against them and may have a will which directs where the court should distribute the property.
During the probate process, the Probate Court will take probate fees out of the estate and ensure that things like funeral expenses and estate administrator fees are paid. The Probate Court has broad powers to conduct the probate process, direct the conduct of the Personal Representative of an estate, and pass orders to administer the estate.
The Probate process requires a knowledgeable Trust & Probate Administration attorney by your side
The probate process is almost always a necessary event after the death of a loved one. Depending on your estate plan, or lack thereof, the Trust and Probate Administration process can prove relatively short or unduly long. In either case, navigating the probate process requires specific knowledge and experience. At Altman & Associates, our probate attorneys have the knowledge and experience to effectively guide you and your family through the probate process.
The probate and trust administration process can be quite complicated. There is typically a myriad of paperwork, financial accounts, insurance policies and retirement plans, as well as real and personal property to deal with. Paying special attention to beneficiary designations and how assets are titled is crucial during this time, and Altman & Associates can help ensure the estate is properly administered.
Is All Property Subject to the Probate Process?
No, some if not most of your property need not be subject to the probate process. Maryland law, for example, only recognizes certain assets as part of your estate for the purposes of probate court. The “net estate” in probate court is made up “property of the decedent” or person who has died. Therefore, assets which are not solely and directly owned by the decedent are not probate assets.
Generally, the less probate assets in an estate the more simple the probate process, and there are various ways to avoid a lengthy probate process. We work to help you understand your assets and plan for a less stressful future for you and your family.
How Does the Probate Process Become Difficult?
First and foremost, probate happens during the very emotionally difficult time following the death of a loved one. Mourning the loss of a family member and dealing with legal matters in Probate Court can prove both financially and emotionally taxing. There are many additional issues which can creep into the probate process and cause significant stress, such as:
- If a decedent passes with significant debts to creditors.
- If a decedent dies “intestate” or without a will, leaving the Probate Court to apportion their estate.
- When conflicting wills or final wishes exist, or other disputes involving the passing of a decedent’s property arise.
- When a decedent dies with a trust established, but the beneficiaries of the trust are dissatisfied with its terms.
- If pre-existing family disputes are magnified due to the death a decedent and the subsequent distribution of their estate.
Most of the time, proper estate planning can help avoid potential issues in probate. There are always planning strategies to minimize the probate process, however the best way to avoid difficulty in the probate process is to carefully and transparently plan for the future with your family, along with Altman & Associates planning attorneys. Dealing with potential issues now will save you and your family much stress and financial loss later.
Trust and Probation Administration Checklist
In the absence of a Will or Trust, property titled in the decedent’s individual name will be settled under state intestacy laws. As the overseer of a decedent’s estate, the personal representative or trustee has a duty to settle, and the duties of a personal representative or trustee may include:
- Petition the appropriate court for authority to settle the estate
- Take possession or control of estate assets
- Determine who inherits estate assets and at what value or percentage
- Value or appraise assets
- Prepare an inventory of property of the estate
- Manage, protect and preserve the estate until distribution or liquidation
- Notify and pay applicable creditors
- File the decedent’s final tax return
- Pay estate taxes, if any
- Prepare a final accounting
- Distribute the estate
Probate Beneficiary Rights
Beneficiaries’ Right to Information. During probate, beneficiaries of a decedent’s estate may demand information from the executor. Information a beneficiary is entitled to includes what assets the estate holds, how much debt the estate needs to pay and which assets are being used or sold to settle that debt.
Altman & Associates Will Guide You Through the Probate Process
Altman & Associates will guide you through the probate process…or help you plan to avoid tt altogether. The probate process often has a bad reputation, and you may have heard “horror stories” from friends or family who have gone through a difficult probate process. But the process need not be difficult for you and your family if you take preemptive action. To discuss how we can assist you with probate, contact us to schedule a consultation. We have offices conveniently located in Columbia, Rockville, D.C. and Northern Virginia.