During our Google Hangout, we will discuss answers to the 4 most common probate questions:
1. Is probate necessary?
2. How do I locate the Will?
3. When do I contact a probate attorney?
4. What types of documents should I bring to my 1st meeting with an attorney?
What is Probate?
Probate is the act of proving that a Will was signed and executed in accordance with the legal requirements as set out in the State where it was signed. It is through probate that property is legally transferred from the estate of a person, known as the "decedent", to the rightful beneficiary. To determine who the rightful beneficiary is will depend on whether the decedent had a valid Will.
1. Is Probate Necessary?
There are many assets one can own, from real estate to bank accounts to livestock to antiques. Depending on the type of assets, probate may or may not be necessary. These assets can be divided into two distinct categories.
The probate process only takes care of those assets that have been identified as the probate assets. If there is a Will, the Will only controls the assets that are probate assets.
2. Is There a Will?
Your loved one may have told you that they had a Will, but you can’t find it. You have searched high and low. After looking in dresser drawers, filing cabinets, closets and even under the mattress, you are ready to give up. Here are some suggestions to aid you in your search.
- If there is a safe, check there first.
- Look on bookshelves, and in cupboards and cabinets.
- Check the safe deposit box.
- Contact close friends and family members.
- Look in your loved one’s address book to try and find a phone number for the attorney who may have prepared the Will.
3. When Do I Contact a Probate Attorney?
Is it ever too early to find a qualified probate lawyer? There are two answers to this question.
1. If it is necessary to file for probate quickly, it is never too early.
2. If you feel you are too overwhelmed by everything because your loved one just passed away, you can wait.
*Probate can take as little as 30 days or as long as several years, depending on the complexity of the estate.
4. What Do You Need to Bring to Your First Meeting With the Attorney?
Here is a list of pertinent documents to bring to the attorney for review. Not all may pertain to your loved one. If you can’t find everything that you think is relevant, bring what you can and your attorney will give you a list of what is missing.
- Original Will (if there is one)
- Death certificate
- Living trust agreements
- Life, health/accident and sickness insurance policies
- Financial statements, including bank accounts, pension, IRA, retirement, certificates of deposit, stocks and bond certificates
- Income tax returns for the past three years
- Deeds, deeds of trust, mortgages and mortgage releases, title policies, motor vehicle titles, lease statements for auto or real estate rentals
- Military records and discharge papers
- Unpaid bills and notes
- Bankruptcy filings and releases
- Nuptial agreements, marriage license and divorce papers
- Any other documents you feel are important
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