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Nolan Elder Law and Estate Planning, LLC Blog

Monday, August 1, 2016

Probate! What is it anyway?

Probate- the word confounds many people. They have heard that probate is something to avoid at all costs, like poison ivy or salmonella. They have heard speakers rail about probate in seminars and on TV, but they only have a vague notion about what exactly probate really is. Let's fix that, shall we?

 Probate is a term used to describe a process that controls how a person's estate (his or her stuff) passes after death to family, friends and charity. It is important to note that each state handles the process differently, so I am only talking about Probate in Alabama here. Check with an attorney in the state where the deceased died to get the 411 on probate there.

Probate is a process that is supervised by the Probate Court. The supervision is necessary to avoid the wrong people getting a person's stuff. It is also necessary to ensure that the deceased's creditors can get paid from the estate. And it is necessary because the State and Federal governments often want their cut. So the Probate Court supervises the process by making sure that whoever is named Executor (or Personal Representative as it is more often called) follows the Will exactly. If they don't, they may have to answer to both the Court and the beneficiaries named in the Will.

 Speaking of Wills, a Will does not avoid the probate process. It can often be a fast-track through the process but it doesn't avoid it. When you die without a Will, probate will cost much more and take much longer than if you had a Will. The money you pay for a Will is slight compared to what your loved ones may have to pay to probate your estate without a will. Keep that in mind if you are being thrifty.

In the next installment I will go into a little more detail about the process itself. If you have any questions or would like more information, don't hesitate to email me. That is why I am doing this!


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