Is probate required? This is a question that should be asked as part of the estate planning process. It is also a question which will be asked by any person whose loved one has passed away. The probate process is usually necessary after a death and is the process by which a will is validated or by which intestacy law is used to determine who should inherit. The probate process also allows for creditors to make claims against the estate and for certain other essential tasks to take place.
While important legal processes occur during probate, the probate process is also costly, a hassle for heirs or beneficiaries who are waiting for inheritance, and a lot of work for the executor of an estate. It takes a lot of time as well. It is all of the big downsides to probate that leave so many asking: is probate required?
The good news is, the answer is: not necessarily. There are steps you can take during the estate planning process to keep your family out of probate court and avoid the probate process after your death. There are also some circumstances where probate won’t be necessary, even if probate avoidance efforts were not undertaken, if the estate is small enough. A Connecticut probate lawyer can provide assistance with the probate process, so contact Nirenstein, Horowitz & Associates today for help.
Is Probate Required After Any Death?
Probate is required after most deaths, unless the deceased person (called the decedent) had limited assets or created a plan to avoid probate. However, if the assets being transferred are limited in value and type, then probate may not be necessary.
The Connecticut Probate Courts explain that a small estates procedure can be used to avoid full probate proceedings after a death, as long as the decedent had $40,000 or less in property and did not have any solely-owned real estate. If the decedent had real estate owned jointly with someone else and had below $40,000 in property, then the small estates procedure is also appropriate.
The small estates procedure is described as a: “simplified method of settling an estate that avoids formal probate proceedings.”
During the simple estates procedure, assets from the decedent’s estate can be used to pay for funeral costs and estate administration. Outstanding claims should be paid out of the estate, and those who paid expenses or claims from nonprobate assets should be paid back. Once all of the expenses are paid and the claims on the estate are satisfied, estate property remaining will be distributed to heirs or beneficiaries.
How Can You Avoid Probate?
If your estate is too big to be considered a small estate, this does not necessarily mean that the answer will always be yes to the question of is probate required? You can make plans to make certain that your family does not have to go through probate. You can do this by creating an estate plan that allows for assets to transfer outside of the probate process.
A comprehensive estate plan that is focused on probate avoidance will typically include the use of jointly-titled real estate and other jointly-held accounts. Pay-on-death accounts are often part of an estate plan that was created for probate avoidance. Life insurance can be purchased and set to pay out directly to a designated beneficiary, rather than the estate, and gifts can be made during your lifetime to reduce assets that must transfer after death. Trusts are also a very powerful tool that can facilitate the transfer of assets entirely outside of probate.
The right combination of legal tools for avoiding the probate process is going to vary depending upon what kind of assets you own, who you are leaving them to, and a variety of other factors. Getting personalized legal advice is the best way to make certain that you have crafted a smart strategy to allow your loved ones to avoid probate.
Getting Help from A Probate Lawyer
Nirenstein, Horowitz & Associates offers assistance during the estate planning process to those who want to make sure their families can avoid probate. Our legal team is also there for families during the small estates procedure and during the probate process after a death.
We can provide the assistance you need to move through the process of winding up an estate as quickly as possible so property can transfer to new owners and so your duty during the probate process will be fulfilled. Give us a call at 860-548-1000 or contact us online to speak with an experienced Connecticut probate lawyer to find out more.
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