The process of probate is a very important factor to consider when you are planning your estate, and many people are not even aware of its existence.
You may have seen dramatic depictions of a scene that takes place after a funeral on television or in the movies. Probate is not involved in these fictional dramatizations. A somber group assembles around a table in a side room, and there is a “reading of the will.” The assumption that the viewer is left with is that the assets that comprise the estate are then magically placed into the pockets of those who are named in the last will.
In the real world things are significantly more complicated than this. When you utilize a last will to express your final wishes regarding the distribution of your financial assets the administration of the estate is going to take place under the auspices of the probate court in the district within which you resided here in the state of Connecticut.
It is the job of the court to supervise as the executor or executrix conducts business on behalf of the estate. This business would involve settling any outstanding debts that may exist, including tax responsibilities. If anyone wanted to challenge the will the executor would have to arrange for a defense, and the matter would ultimately be decided by the probate court if there was no private settlement reached.
The executor is also going to be charged with the responsibility of preparing the assets for distribution to the heirs according to the wishes of the decedent as stated in the contents of the last will. This can involve some complicated tasks. Property appraisals may be necessary, and asset liquidation may be next. In some cases this can take a considerable amount of time.
Imagine real property being a part of the estate. You can’t necessarily sell an $18 million beach home overnight. Auctioning off 26 classic cars may take some time as well.
The heirs to the estate do not receive their inheritances while the estate is being probated. And, as you might imagine after you absorb the description above, considerable expenses can pile up during probate as various professionals are paid for their services. Plus, the executor is entitled to remuneration, and there are court costs.
It should be noted that very small estates may be able to sidestep the full probate process even if a last will is used to arrange for asset transfers. If your estate was worth $40,000 or less the executor or executrix could approach the probate court and request a simplified probate procedure. Should this request be granted the assets that comprise the estate could be distributed to the heirs in a simpler fashion.