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How an Estate Relates to Probate

If you are currently dealing with the death of a loved one, you will hear about his or her estate. In legal terms, what is in an estate? It is everything that the person owns at the time of his or her death. So, how does the estate relate to probate?

Did Your Loved One Have a Will?

If your loved one dies without a will, what happens to the estate? The will is what directs an executor to distribute property and to pay off any debts. If someone dies without an executor, then the court has to appoint an administrator. If this is the case with your loved one, then you can always apply to be the executor of the estate.

Every state has its laws on who receives property when it comes to the estate. Often, it is the spouse or the children who have priority over any assets in the estate. If the person did not have a spouse or children, then other relatives may inherit the property. There is a specific order in which surviving family members can inherit property.

Does the Entire Estate Pass Through Probate?

There are probate and non-probate assets. Your loved one’s estate may consist of both types of assets. The non-probate assets are the ones that will pass directly to the loved ones. This may be life insurance policies and retirement accounts. Other assets that do not have to go through probate include those that are held in a trust. If your loved one has a trust, then the trustee will manage the trust’s assets and handle the distribution.

In some cases, a person may direct assets to be transferred from the trust to the estate. In this case, the executor of the will would have to distribute those assets after transfer.

The probate assets are all assets that must go through the court-approved process. These may be individual assets, assets with no beneficiary or assets that were not included in a trust.

After the death of a loved one, his or her estate must be distributed. Often, this is done through a will and the probate process. If you are an executor or if you need to know more about the probate process, it helps to have guidance from an attorney. To find out more about estates and the probate process, consult with an estate planning lawyer, like one at Yee Law Group, PC