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Dividing Up Someone's Estate? Common Questions About Probate

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Did someone close to you pass away and leave you to go through their estate and figure out what to do with it? If so, you'll be going through the probate process. You'll likely have the following questions about probate before it begins.

What Situations Require Probate?

One thing to be aware of is that probate isn't a necessary process in all deaths. When the deceased has a spouse that is still alive, all assets will automatically go to them and not need to go through probate. However, things get more complicated when there isn't a spouse and nobody can find a will. Probate will be necessary due to the state having the rights to the estate and deciding how to divide everything up.

Can Probate Be Avoided?

The best way to prevent the probate process is to make a will, but you can also use a living trust instead. The difference between these two methods is how assets are divided. Living trusts involve placing members into the trust so that they can immediately receive assets upon someone's death. You've essentially gone through the legal process by creating the trust, and there is no need to go through it again.

A will simply states someone's wishes for how their estate will be divided. Once they pass away, it needed to be determined if the will is a genuine document and then excuse the requests of dividing assets. It places the legal process after the death, which means things can be more complicated without the deceased around to give clarification.

What Steps Are Involved in Probate?

Someone will need to be appointed as the executor of the estate, which is the person in charge of dividing assets. If that person was not selected in the will, then someone will be will be appointed by the court. The first thing that must be taken care of is any debts that the estate still owes. These debts can be paid through a combination of cash or by liquidating assets. Once all debts have been settled, the remainder of the estate will be divided among heirs.

If there are listed heirs in a will, then the distribution process will be simplified. However, no listed heirs means that the executor will need to make the tough decisions about who will receive which assets. 

To make sure your family and friends don't have to go through this hassle, work with a lawyer offering estate planning services, such as Thomason & Hessmer, for the best results.