Probate is a legal process involving the disposition of your assets after your death. The executor of a will or an attorney will provide proof of death and get court approval to pay any debt and distribute assets accordingly.
At this point, the court-appointed executor takes the will and follows the instructions outlined in it. But, some people don’t have a will. In fact, a Gallup Poll found that 54% of those surveyed did not have a will. What happens then?
What Happens When There Is No Will?
When a person dies without a will, it’s known as an intestate death. The court holds a special hearing to determine how the estate will be divided, usually following these guidelines for intestate succession.
If the person has a spouse but no children, the spouse gets everything.
If the person has a spouse and children, typically a half or third goes to the surviving spouse with the children splitting the rest. This does depend on the state laws, as there are some states where the spouse and children split things equally.
After the spouse and children, the parents of the deceased come next, followed by siblings, aunts/uncles, nieces/nephews, and cousins.
If the person has a partner (unmarried) or best friend, they’re usually excluded. The same is typically true of step-children unless they were officially adopted.
Here’s where it gets frustrating. Suppose your dad dies without a will. He has a son from a first marriage who he hasn’t seen or heard from in 50 years. That son is a child and could be in line for some of the inheritance. This is why it’s so important for your dad to consult with an elder law professional and have a will in place to avoid having the courts decide who gets part of the inheritance.
What Are the Steps to Probate?
Once your dad dies, you or the executor would post a probate bond and provide your dad’s death certificate. The bond is a promise that you will follow state laws when distributing assets and paying your dad’s debt.
The second step involves notifying beneficiaries and creditors of your dad’s death. Creditors have a deadline to meet when it comes to submitting invoices or they risk not being paid.
After this, the executor sells the home and other assets, if necessary, pays taxes, funeral/cremation expenses, and any outstanding bills, and then takes the money that’s left and distributes it.
Once all of this is complete, the executor files the final accounting with the probate court, the executor is relieved of his or her duties, and the estate is closed.
Probate law can be incredibly complex and hard for a layperson to manage. If your dad has a carefully laid out plan, drafted by an elder law attorney who specializes in probate law and estates, it makes it so much easier. Arrange a consultation to learn more about probate law and estate planning.
If you or a loved one need assistance with Elder Law in Centerpoint, AL contact The Alabama Elder Care Law Firm, LLC today. (205) 390-0101