When you plan for the distribution of your estate after your death, you want to make sure that your loved ones will receive everything with as few problems as possible. After someone dies, their estate may need to go through probate in order to ensure proper division of property and payment of debts. It is helpful to understand how your estate will be assessed and which assets will be subject to probate. An experienced probate and estate planning attorney will assist you through the process.
What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process in which a person’s estate is administered after death. Under the guidance of an administrator, the probate process identifies your assets and debts so that your property will be distributed according to your wishes. If you do not have a will in place, state law provides for who will receive your assets when you die. You may assign an administrator, also sometimes called the executor, or the court will appoint one on behalf of your estate. The probate process can take some months to complete, but you may be able to avoid probate for some of your assets.
Is Probate Always Required?
According to Wisconsin law, probate is only required when the estate of the deceased has a value of $50,000 or more. However, there are some exceptions to the rule. One exception is if you have a revocable trust. A revocable trust is a way to hold your assets until your death. When you die, your assets are distributed according to your wishes. You can amend the trust while you are alive. This allows your heirs to effectively bypass the probate process in some cases. However, it is important to note that your estate can be complex and may contain a variety of assets, so it is best to plan your estate with assistance from a qualified attorney.
What Assets are Not Subject to Probate?
In addition to a trust, there are some other assets that are not subject to probate. Assets that are owned jointly are not generally subject to probate. For example, if you own a home jointly with your spouse, your spouse will continue to own it after your death. The same holds true for any jointly owned property. Additionally, assets that have contractual beneficiaries do not need to go through the probate process. Retirement accounts, pensions, and 401k accounts are some examples of assets that name beneficiaries. Upon your death, the beneficiaries receive the specified assets outside of the probate process.
It can be advantageous for your heirs to distribute your estate without having to go through probate. Probate can be a lengthy process, and it can be complicated. The court oversees probate, and therefore, it is a legal procedure that has specific rules and laws. Besides being lengthy, probate can also be costly, and the expenses will be subtracted from the inheritance. While avoiding probate will not eliminate taxes on inheritances, there are some options that may require less taxation than others. By taking the time to set up your estate in a thoughtful manner, you will help your heirs make the process of distributing your assets easier and less stressful.