Understanding Probate: What You Need to Know About the Legalization of a Will

Probate is a court-supervised process that authenticates a will (if one exists) and approves the appointed executor so that assets and belongings can be distributed. This procedure is necessary to ensure that the deceased's wishes are followed and that their estate is properly managed. During the probate process, all assets must be located and evaluated to determine their full value. Taxes and debts are then paid, and the remaining value of the estate is distributed.

If the deceased person had a valid will, the probate judge will review it to ensure that it has been properly executed. The executor of the estate will then administer it according to the instructions in the will. The cost of probate legalization varies by state, but generally involves executor fees, administrative expenses, and legal fees. If a person dies without leaving a will, their assets must be distributed according to the state law of intestate succession. The probate court will follow instructions in the will regarding the appointment of an executor, payment of final debts and taxes, and distribution of remaining assets. It is possible to reduce the value of an estate to simplify the probate process and potentially benefit from positive tax advantages in terms of federal and estate taxes.

In simpler terms, succession is the legal procedure that an estate goes through after death. Life insurance policies name beneficiaries, so income goes directly to them without having to go through a succession process. Documents may be required to prove that one of the owners died and that property is now solely owned by the survivor, but asset approval does not require probate court review. Procedures have been put in place to make probate court accessible to most families and encourage people to create wills. An executor or attorney informs the court of death and submits a copy of the death certificate to begin the probate process.

An Ohio estate planning attorney can use estate planning tools such as trusts, beneficiary designations, designations by transfer or payable upon death, and other asset management strategies to minimize assets going through probate court. The right of survivorship means that jointly owned property is transferred without supervision by the probate court. If an account was owned by a deceased person with a named beneficiary (such as a retirement account), but the beneficiary died before the account owner, the probate law requires that the account go through court so funds can be transferred according to state law. If a person dies after having lived their entire life in Monmouth County, their will is legalized in Freehold.

Kristie Funn
Kristie Funn

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