The process of probate is something that you should fully understand when you are engaged in your inheritance planning efforts. This process can enter the picture when assets are changing hands after someone dies. The probate court steps in to provide supervision when certain circumstances exist.
For example, when someone passes away without any estate planning documents at all, the condition of intestacy is the result. Someone has to handle the business of the estate, so the probate court is responsible for intestacy case. A personal representative would be appointed by the court, and this individual would become the estate administrator.
Final debts would be paid, and remaining assets would be distributed according to the intestacy succession rules of the state of Connecticut.
If you were to maintain direct personal possession of your property throughout your life and direct its distribution through the terms of a will, you can nominate an executor in the document. After your passing, the executor would be required to admit the will to probate. The probate court would supervise the administration of the estate, and the executor would conduct estate business.
Once again, final debts would be paid during probate, and the assets that comprise the estate would be prepared for distribution to the heirs. Ultimately, assets would be distributed in accordance with the terms of the will.
Conservatorship and Guardianship
In addition to the above scenarios, the probate court handles guardianship and conservatorship matters. If a minor child was to be in need of a guardian, the court would determine the outcome. In many cases a grandparent will be appointed as the guardian of a minor child.
There are adults who cannot handle their own affairs at some point in time, and the probate court can be petitioned to appoint a conservator to manage the affairs of an incapacitated adult.
A child who needs a home could wind up in the social services system if a guardian is not appointed by the probate court. An adult who is incapacitated could become institutionalized at the expense of the state if a conservator was not appointed. For these reasons, the probate process is very useful when these circumstances exist.
Increased Probate Costs
Over the summer, the Hartford Courant reported on some legislative changes that have had a very significant impact on the probate court system in the state of Connecticut. Previous to the enactment of this legislative measure, resources were allocated from the general fund to support the probate system.
The court also charged a fee for each individual case, but there was a cap on probate costs that would be absorbed by the estates of deceased Connecticut residents. This cap stood at $12,500.
The new system requires the estates of people who passed away to pay a fee that is based on a percentage of the assets that are contained within the estate. When it comes to people with considerable resources, the numbers can get very big. A large estate could be faced with a probate bill reaching the six or seven figures.
There are also fees for guardianship and conservatorship proceedings.
All of this is intended to cut government costs, but when it comes to conservatorship and guardianship, the strategy will backfire according to the article in the Hartford Courant. Guardians and conservators keep people out of the expensive social services web, and families who cannot afford probate costs could avoid the process and choose foster homes for children and choose institutionalization for incapacitated elders.
If you look into the subject of estate planning, you will see general articles about the reasons why you may want to avoid probate, and probate costs are always cited as one of the drawbacks. Due to these legislative changes, probate court costs in the state of Connecticut are the highest the entire country.
There are many different ways that you can get assets into the hands of your loved ones after you pass away outside of the probate process. The process can be avoided if you take the right steps. You can also prevent an adult conservatorship hearing through the execution of a durable financial power of attorney.
Attend a Free Seminar
We have provided some valuable information in this blog post that may have gotten your attention. If you would like to gain a solid foundation of information so that you can take the right steps when you are planning your estate, attend one of our estate planning seminars.
Our firm offers these sessions on an ongoing basis, and they are free to attend. You can get all the details and obtain registration information if you visit our seminar schedule page.