Probate is a court process used to distribute certain assets owned by an individual upon their death. If a person has a Last Will and Testament then assets they owned at death in their name alone will, upon their death, be distributed or managed for a beneficiary according to the terms of the Will. If a person dies without a Will then assets they owned at death in their name alone will be distributed according to state law.
A Will is important for persons with children under age eighteen because the parents can select a Guardian for the child if the parents die before the child reaches age eighteen. A Guardian is a person or persons who fulfill the role of a parent. If someone dies without a Will designating a Guardian and there is no other surviving parent then the Probate Court will determine who the Guardian will be based on the child’s best interests.
Although the common perception is that Probate Court is an expensive legal process to be avoided, that is not always the case. It is true that assets passing through Probate at death are subject to an estate fee payable to the Court depending on the assets value. However for many young couples with children a Last Will and Testament is an affordable option to a revocable living trust.
Probate Court can be used to protect the assets of a disabled child when the parent’s estate plan failed to include a supplemental needs trust. This would include preserving government benefits that the child or special needs beneficiary is or should be receiving.
Probate Court can be used to establish a Guardianship for a disabled individual who did not have an estate plan or had an incomplete estate plan. A Guardian is a person that is approved by the Probate Court after a hearing to make ongoing personal, non financial, decisions for a disabled individual.
Probate Court can be used to establish a Conservatorship for a disabled individual who did not have an estate plan or had an incomplete estate plan. A Conservator is a person that is approved by the Probate Court after a hearing to make ongoing financial decisions for a disabled individual.
Probate Court can be used to challenge a Will or Trust if a beneficiary believes the Will or Trust was the result of undue influence or fraud or where the person making the Will or Trust lacked sufficient mental capacity to make the Will or Trust.
If you find yourself involved with any of these situations please contact the firm today to have our 25 years of experience put to work for you.