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Probate FAQ: Common Questions

Get the answers you need from a Grand Rapids Probate Lawyer

What is probate?

Have you ever wondered what will happen to your estate and your personal belongings after you pass away? Probate is the process which your last will goes through to administer your estate after you die. Your will becomes a legally binding document that is enforceable in probate court and it should officially appoint an executor or representative to handle your property and appropriate it according to the conditions of the will. There must be an appointed person to execute the will and they will be accountable to the beneficiaries and responsible for any death tax filings. They will gather up your assets, take out appropriate taxes and then distributes them according to your wishes. If you do not have designated beneficiaries then it will be left in the courts hands to decide how your property will be allocated.

Why is probate essential?

When someone passes away, something must be done with decedent's property. During probate, their assets and property can be disposed of to the appropriated heirs and beneficiaries. Probate however, is not necessary if the deceased had no title of property to their name. The probate process also resolves any taxes pertaining to the death or taxes regarding the transferring of property. Lastly, probate gives a way for people to pay off old debts or taxes that are pertaining to their property. You can plan ahead with probate and make sure that creditors do not harass your loved ones and family for any outstanding debts.

Does all my property have to pass through probate?

No, only some types of property must pass through the probate process. Non-probate property includes any real or personal property that was jointly owned. In cases of this nature the property can go to the remaining co-owners without having to go through probate. If there are life insurance policies or annuity that is specifically awarded to a selected beneficiary then that can be done outside of probate as well, this includes IRAs and 401(k) plans as well. Many people choose to set up a POD bank account, or Payable-on-death, because the selected beneficiary will be able to collect it and bypass the probate process. You can also set up a living trust, which is a legal document that will remain after you pass and will hold the title to some of your property and pass it on to the legal heir(s) outside of probate.

Where are probate matters handled?

These legal matters are handled in the probate court and they will take place in the same County where the deceased permanently resided at their time of death. In probate court, they handle matters of personal and real estate property that was owned by the deceased.

What happens when I own property in two separate states?

With real estate property, you will have to go through the probate process in the state where the property is. For example, if you lived in Florida, then your home and personal belongings will go through the Florida probate courts. If you own a ranch in Texas however, then that will be a separate probate that must go through the Texas probate process. This means that you will have two separate probates and possibly even an executor for each one. Each state has its own way of distributing property and real estate must be probated in the area that it is actually located. If you do not a have a will in place, then that state will get to decide who the beneficiary will be.

Do I need a probate lawyer?

You are not legally mandated to have a probate attorney, but it is very important to remember that if you miss any legal deadlines, have one minor omission, fail to send copies of the petition, or do not abide by all the formal procedures during probate, then a lot can go wrong. The process will become very lengthy and expensive and everyone involved could be exposed to great liability. Unfortunately, when a family member dies, instead of the family coming together, it normally brings out the worst in people. Large disputes can arise from minute and trivial matters and the property and asset distribution stage can become very lengthy and the delays cause even more frustration. That is why it is in your best interest to have an attorney handle the matter for you, this way the process will not be emotionally driven and it will take up less time and money for everyone.

What if I die, without leaving a will?

A will, also known as a dying intestate, is a legal document with instructions as your how the decedent wishes to distribute their assets and property after they pass. If you die without a will in place, then the probate court will appoint an administrator over the case and have them distribute the property according the laws of the state. That is why it is important to establish a will so that your assets and personal belongings will be dispersed according to your wishes.

How long does probate typically take to conclude?

Unfortunately, there is no cookie-cutter answer to this question. The length of the probate process normally depends on the size of the estate and the complexity of that particular case. If someone contests the will then it could definitely delay things and drag it out over a number of years. If everyone is able to come to an amicable agreement however, and the assets and property is not too complex, then the entire probate process could be concluded within the year.

Do not hesitate to contact a probate attorney from our Grand Rapids firm today if you have any further questions about the probate process.

248.956.1473

11313 Troon Dr.,
Stanwood, MI 49364
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Phone: (248) 956-1473
Local Phone: (616) 953-8450

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