Maxine Aaronson, Attorney at Law
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Estate Planning Newsletter

  • Charitable Trusts
    It is possible to set up a trust for charitable purposes. Charitable trusts are quite common, but certain requirements must be met. Purpose of a Charitable Gift Reasons for charitable gifts funded through... Read more.
  • Totten Trusts for Assets Payable on Death
    A decedent’s assets may be transferred upon their death to their heirs or other beneficiaries through probate. “Probate” is the legal process by which a court determines who receives a decedent’s assets under... Read more.
  • Special Use Valuation for Certain Estate Properties
    Calculation of the Value of Estate Assets Estate taxes are calculated based upon the value of the assets in the estate. One duty of the executor or administrator is to inventory all estate assets and assign a... Read more.
  • IRS Issues Proposed Regulations on Delaware Series LLC
    Limited Liability Companies (“LLCs”) are a form of business ownership which is a separate legal entity much like a corporation. An LLC is treated like a partnership for tax purposes and like a corporation for liability... Read more.
Estate Planning News Links

Probate

Probate, a Latin term meaning “to prove the will,” is a court-supervised process that settles a person’s affairs after death.

To ensure that the decedent’s final matters and wishes are handled correctly and without bias, most states have probate courts (or special departments of the court) to oversee the settling of estates. Probate may occur even if there is no will.

Court Appointees

Usually the court will appoint one of 2 types of persons to oversee the decedent’s final affairs:

  • Executor – Typically the person, bank or trust company named in a will to administer the estate
  • Administrator – Typically appointed if the decedent died without a will (intestate)

On behalf of the decedent, the probate court makes certain that:

  • Any final bills and expenses are paid, including any taxes owed
  • Any assets remaining are distributed to the beneficiaries named in a will
  • If there was no will, any assets remaining are distributed to the correct heirs under the laws of intestate succession

What Qualifies for Probate?

The deceased person’s estate must have assets (such as real estate, bank accounts, securities) before probate occurs. Each state sets its own requirements on when probate is necessary, usually according to the value of an estate’s assets.

In some states, the assets must be at least $10,000 to go through probate, or modified probate. However, other states allow assets of up to $100,000 before probate occurs.

These assets would not include any real or personal property of the decedent’s that others receive directly through joint tenancy, trusts, life insurance benefits, right of survivorship or other means.

Reasons to Avoid Probate

The primary disadvantages of probate are:

  • The time it takes for an estate to be administered through the probate process
    (which can span anywhere from several months to several years)
  • The cost involved in the probate process (which can include fees for the court, estate administrator, attorney and taxes)