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Frequently Asked Questions about Probate and Estate Administration
Q: What is probate?
A: In general, probate is the court procedure by which a will’s validity is proved, assets collected, creditors paid, and the remaining assets distributed to beneficiaries under the will.
Q: What is a will contest?
A: A will contest is a legal action that challenges the validity of a will and/or the terms of the will. Will contests typically involve allegations that a will was inadequately executed, invalidated by a later will or was the result of forgery or undue influence.
A will contest can result in a significant delay in the distribution of a loved one’s assets, and can also be expensive. The costs of will contest are paid out of the estate, which may significantly deplete the available funds.
While some of my clients avoid probate through the effective use of trusts, it is sometimes unavoidable in a large, complicated estate. I am Richard A. Sarner of Zeldes, Needle & Cooper, P.C., and I work with clients closely to plan their estates to minimize the costs of probate, including the drafting of wills. When administering an estate, I do not unnecessarily extend the process, and I allow my clients’ wishes to guide the process. I staff probate matters with a fiduciary accountant to assist in the final accounting, and seek to make the probate process as efficient and accurate as possible. In addition to probate, I can handle all your estate planning needs.
I have more than 25 years of experience in estate planning. I have attained the prestigious Martindale-Hubbell® AV rating* and am listed in the Martindale-Hubbell® Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers™ In addition, I have lectured widely on estate planning topics and co-authored the books, “Giving: Philanthropy for Everyone,” (Quantum Press, 2002) and “Love, Money, Control: Reinventing Estate Planning—Practical Answers from America’s Foremost Estate Planning Advisors ” (Quantum Press, 2004).
Estate administration refers to the process of probating the estate of a decedent, which generally includes collecting, inventorying and appraising assets; paying and collecting debts; filing and paying estate taxes; and distributing any remaining assets to beneficiaries. An attorney experienced in probate and estate administration can help simplify this complicated process. If you need help in the administration of an estate, contact me today to schedule a consultation with a probate attorney.
Probate is the court process used to determine the validity of a will and oversee the payment of creditors and distribution of estate assets. Even if there is no valid will at the time of death, the estate will still go through the probate procedure. Because probate is regulated by state laws, there are specific procedures prescribed by each state for carrying out the process.
An executor is the person named by the creator of the will (the testator) to carry out the terms and provisions of the will. In addition to locating important documents and notifying Social Security, pension providers, annuity providers and other entities of the death, the executor has numerous other legal responsibilities.
Assets disposed of outside the probate process are part of the non-probate estate. Because a probate proceeding is not required, these assets are distributed more quickly to the appropriate beneficiaries. Many people seek out these assets and ownership models to save their loved ones from the difficulties associated with going through probate.
The fact that a person leaves a will does not guarantee that her or his property will be distributed according to the will’s terms. A court generally must provide an opportunity to allow others to object to the will, and a legal challenge, called a will contest, may be brought by anyone with an interest in the will who believes it is invalid.
Probate and Estate Administration Resource Links
Uniform Probate Code Locator
SmartMoney® Estate Planning
AARP® Estate Planning Page
Estate Tax Calculator