If someone close to you dies and leaves a home behind, it will go into probate. This can be a difficult time for families, as they work to settle the estate of their loved ones. If you are faced with this situation, it is important to know what to expect. Here is a look at the basics of probate and what you need to do to settle an estate.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal process of settling a decedent’s estate. It begins with the filing of a petition to either establish or transfer ownership of the assets left in their name. This responsibility commonly falls to an executor or administrator if none was appointed by the deceased prior to their passing. After all necessary documents are gathered and approved by the court, assets are typically sold, debts are paid and the remaining assets are distributed in line with a will, if present, or according to probate law. Probate is complex and can take several weeks—or even months—to complete. To help ensure an efficient process, it is best practice to work with a local attorney experienced in probate matters.
What Happens to a Home in Probate?
When a person passes away, the estate they left behind typically goes through probate. During this process, the deceased’s personal assets are evaluated and any taxes and debts they owe are paid off from those assets. If there is property involved such as a home, it may need to be sold to pay those debts or partial interests split among beneficiaries. A probate proceeding can be complex, but an experienced attorney can help guide families through and ensure any necessary steps are taken for their property in the process.
How to Avoid Probate
One of the most useful things individuals can do in order to avoid probate is to transfer their property into a trust. A trust is an agreement between two parties in which one party has legal title over the property, but gives detention of that property to another party. It is important to ensure that any property or assets have been transferred properly into a trust before death so they won’t be subject to probate laws. Additionally, certain transactions during a lifetime may be exempt from probate such as gifting away real estate holdings, transferring them into joint tenancy, or naming beneficiaries directly on financial accounts. These options provide peace of mind for families knowing that the process for determining who inherits their property has already been decided and pre-approved.
Probate court is a nuisance that many people have to deal with in the wake of losing a loved one. If you have just inherited a home, or are executing an estate, don’t worry. Armed with knowledge, you can handle the probate process.
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