When doing your estate planning, one question to ask is “will your estate go through probate?” It is said that nothing is certain except for death and taxes. Should probate be added to that list? There may be ways to avoid probate altogether.
Basic Information About Probate
Probate is a process through which a deceased person’s property is distributed to their heirs. Valid claims against the person’s estate are also paid during probate. An estate may have to go through probate whether the decedent left a Will or not. However, there are some exceptions.
The Alabama Small Estate Act allows personal property only to go through a summary distribution process without requiring full blown probate administration of the estate. There are rules and restrictions to dealing with a small estate, though. For one thing, if the estate own real estate, there cannot be a small estate administration. Additionally, the value of the estate must be minimal (nor more than $25,000 or so).
Also, not every asset will become part of the probate estate. Some of the exceptions are listed below.
Answering the Question Requires More Questions
To answer, “Will your estate go through probate?” ask yourself the following:
- Do you own real estate? If the property is jointly owned with a survivorhip provision, it may pass directly to the other owner(s).
- Are you the sole owner of any property? If you are the sole owner of property, it will pass to your heirs through probate.
- Do you have any financial accounts or insurance policies? If so, have you named beneficiaries for these account? Since beneficiary designations bypass your Will, these accounts and your insurance policy do not become probate assets.
- Have you created and funded any trusts? Many people use a revocable living trust to pass property to heirs without the need for probate. Assets funded into the trust during the lifetime of the decedent will avoid probate. If the trust is created through a Will, (a testamentary trust) then the Will does go through probate and then the trust is created.
- Do you own other asset that will not pass through probate? It’s complicated. Some assets may pass to your spouse as their elective share of your estate.
The Best Way to Deal with Probate
Leave a complete, up-to-date estate plan behind for your family. The guidance you offer through your Will and revocable living trust is priceless. By doing proper planning, you can decide “will your estate go through probate” yourself.
At Miller Estate and Elder Law, we work with families everyday who are dealing with the probate process. We also work with people as they set up their estate plans. Contact us at 256-472-1900 and let us help you. We also do free workshops and offer free resources on our website.
Miller Estate and Elder Law is now located at 818 Leighton Avenue in Anniston, but we serve clients in Leeds, Gadsden, Hoover, Talladega, Vestavia Hills, and surrounding areas.