Probate is a legal procedure that your estate goes through once you pass away. During this process, the court will begin overseeing the distribution of your assets to rightful heirs. Probate is a smoother proceeding when there is a valid will or living trust with clear instructions about your wishes. Such documents help by naming an executor, who will manage the estate and follow your instructions, and beneficiaries, who will receive a portion of your assets. 


It is important to know that your will may still have to undergo probate, but it’s a simplified process if you have planned ahead of time. During probate, the court will make sure the will is authentic, and then approve the executor to pay taxes and debts, then distribute any remaining property based on directions in the estate plan. Your assets must be located and valued, and once that is done, debts and taxes are paid, then beneficiaries receive what is left over. 


In situations where there is not a valid will, otherwise called intestate, this can make matters more complicated. Due to there not being any paperwork reflecting your wishes, the court may make decisions about your estate and how assets are distributed for you instead. Unless you plan properly, as a probate lawyer Knoxville, TN families trust from Carpenter & Lewis PLLC can attest, an estate may get caught up in probate. But the more planning you do now, the better it will be for those who love you after you have passed away. 


It may be easiest to view probate as a supervised court process that sees to it rightful beneficiaries get appropriate assets and titles from the estate. In circumstances where there is no trust or will, it will be the job of the court to appoint a person to represent your estate. This person becomes a personal representative, and has the duty to handle the same tasks that an executor would if a will was present and you appointed someone for this role. Certain property and assets in an estate will have to go through probate, but others will not. This is something your lawyer, like a team member from Carpenter & Lewis PLLC, can discuss with you on an individual basis during an appointment. 


If a named beneficiary passed away prior to you and you did not update your will, this part of the estate will be decided by the court. Household items such as furniture, appliances, clothing, and other items may fall into this category. If your will has these items and clearly states what your wishes are for them, they can avoid probate. Property that has a title solely in your name may undergo probate to decide ownership. Depending on the state you reside, you can avoid this by including a transfer on death or payable on death to a title or deed. 


There are many nuances to consider when it comes to probate, and many people try to avoid it at all costs. While it can be beneficial in some cases, most people prefer the court to not have a hand in how their lifelong legacy and assets will be distributed. By understanding what probate is and taking steps now, a person can feel rest assured that their estate will be taken care of how they wish in the future.