If you start to look into estate planning for the first time, you will invariably hear the term “probate” mentioned quite often. In this post, we will provide some information about the probate court so that you can go forward with a basic understanding of its functions.
When you think about the concept of guardianship as it applies to estate planning, minor children may come to your mind. This is definitely one type of guardianship, and the probate court has jurisdiction over these matters. Without question, if you are the parent of a young child, you should name your preferred guardian when you are devising your estate plan.
The probate court also handles adult guardianship scenarios. Unfortunately, a very significant percentage of elders become unable to make sound decisions at some point in time. Under these circumstances, interested parties could petition the court to appoint a guardian to represent an incapacitated elder.
This is a necessary safeguard, but they are potential drawbacks that go along with a guardianship. For one, if you were incapacitated, the person who is chosen to act as your guardian may not be the individual you would have selected.
Secondly, family members may not agree on the best course of action. To avoid these pitfalls, you can proactively prepare for incapacity in advance through the execution of durable powers of attorney.
The agents who you choose in these documents would be empowered to act on your behalf if you ever become incapacitated. We are using the plural because you could execute a durable power of attorney for health care decision-making along with a durable power of attorney for property.
A major function of the probate court is the supervision of the estate administration process. If you were to use a will to state your final wishes in writing, you would name an executor in the document. Your executor would admit the will to probate, and the court would make a determination with regard to its validity.
If anyone wanted to come forward contesting the will, they would have a chance to present an argument during the probate process. Creditors would be notified during probate, and final debts would be paid by the executor. The assets that comprise the estate would be inventoried and prepared for distribution to the heirs.
Ultimately, the probate court would close the estate. At that point, the executor would be allowed to distribute assets to the inheritors in accordance with the instructions that you left behind in the last will.
When someone dies without any estate planning documents at all, this is called the condition of intestacy. Under these circumstances, the probate court would be called upon to sort the matter out.
The court would appoint a personal representative to act as the administrator, and a similar process would unfold. Final debts would be paid out of assets that comprise the estate, and ultimately, the resources would be distributed using the intestate succession laws of the state.
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There is no admission charge, but we ask that you register in advance so that we know how many people to expect. You can see the dates and obtain detailed registration information if you visit our workshop schedule page.
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