Do You Know What Probate Is? We Have Some Answers for You

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what is probate

Thinking about organizing your affairs in the event you pass away is not something we look forward to doing. Indeed, death, dying, living wills, and inheritance are generally unpleasant, even depressing subjects.  However, if you are someone with aging parents, or if your parents have asked for your assistance in financial affairs, then you likely have some questions.  

Those questions may range from as basic as “what does probate mean?” “What is the probate process?” and “who is responsible to pay my deceased family member’s bills?” to more specific questions involving creditors, contested wills, and revocable trusts.  In this article, we are going to go through five major issues that are helpful to know when it comes to probate and the probate process.   

If, after reading this article, you have additional questions about your own situation, then we welcome you to contact a probate lawyer in Stuart, FL at Crary Buchanan.  At Crary Buchanan, we are proud of our standard of excellence, which has allowed us to thrive as one of the oldest law firms on Florida’s Treasure Coast.  

Our probate lawyers in Stuart are passionate about giving you the highest quality representation.  Call us today at 772-287-2600, or schedule a free estate planning to consult online with our online contact form.

1. Probate:  What is it really?

When we talk of “probate,” we are referring to a court proceeding.  The purpose of a probate court is to properly distribute the assets of the decedent (a deceased person) to the heirs who are supposed to inherit those assets.  

Oftentimes, a person will have a last will and testament that states how property and other valuables should be given to certain beneficiaries.  Yet, when the decedent passes away, the assets do not automatically transfer.  Indeed, the decedent’s home is still in his name, likely his bank account is still in his name, etc.  So, a beneficiary needs authority from a court to make clear that those assets should pass to him or her.  Accordingly, the probate court’s job is to legally change the ownership of those assets from being in the decedent’s name to the beneficiary’s name. 

2. Tell Me More About the Probate Process

You must first file an initial petition for administration of an estate to begin a probate proceeding.  Also, you need to file a petition to appoint a personal representative.  Then, you need to file the official death certificate and the decedent’s last will and testament, if one exists.  

The probate court will then review those filings, appoint a personal representative, and sign letters of administration.  At that point, the estate is considered “open.”  Then, the personal representative has the job of administering the estate through the probate process.

3. What About the Decedent’s Outstanding Bills?

Normally, heirs to an estate (or other family members) are not responsible for the debts of a deceased relative.  The only time that is not so is when an heir voluntarily agreed to pay a deceased family member’s debt when they were alive.

4. Does a Probate Court Deal with Insurance?

Given that the probate court process could take a long time, life insurance policies, and retirement vehicles like IRAs normally do not need to go through probate.  That is because those financial products typically have a named beneficiary, designating who receives the funds immediately upon the principal’s death.  

There are, however, exceptions to that rule.  If the decedent did not name a beneficiary on an IRA or other retirement plan, or if those plans were made payable to the deceased person’s estate, then those funds would still need to be handled by the probate process.

5. If the Will is Valid and Uncontested, Do I Still Need the Probate Court?

Yes.  You would still need to have the decedent’s estate go through the probate process when the decedent has a valid and uncontested will. A last will and testament is essentially a direction to the probate judge as to how a person wants his or her assets to be distributed after death.  

Contact Probate Attorney in Stuart to Help You Through the Process

Estate planning gives people the opportunity to care for those they love and plan to give the possessions they treasure after they are gone. Without a will, trust, or another type of estate plan, you will have no say in what happens to your possessions and assets, and you will have no power to determine who receives your property. Though it may seem daunting to plan your estate, a lawyer can work with you to protect the people you love and ensure that your wishes will be honored.

At Crary Buchanan, we are committed to providing clients with exceptional service in every aspect of estate planning and personal injury law.  You can depend upon our 85 years of experience in the Florida legal industry. 

Our legal team is passionate about maintaining the high standards of professionalism and legal service that were established and practiced by founding attorneys Evans Crary Sr. and Evans Crary Jr.  Evans Crary Sr. began his law practice in Stuart in 1927 at a time when Martin County was only two years old.  He became a municipal judge at the age of 25 and served as County Attorney for 23 years. 

During his time as County Attorney, he was elected to represent Martin County in the Florida Legislature.  In 1945 he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives.  He served in the House for nine years and even served as Speaker of the House before he went on to become a member of the Florida Senate.  Today, the Crary Buchanan law firm continues to practice the example of integrity, professionalism, energy, and devotion that was clearly illustrated in the lives of both Evans Crary Sr. and Evans Crary Jr.

Our clients are more than case numbers; they are people. We recognize that you are an individual with unique needs and expectations.  Our team is here to meet your need and exceed your expectations.  When you work with us, you can have confidence that a caring legal advocate is on your side.

If you have more questions or want a dedicated personal injury attorney in Stuart to help you, call 772-287-2600 or schedule a free consult online with our online contact form.  You can always depend on Crary Buchanan for community, experience, and trust.  Call today.