A nice day today, eh?
Some people come to us with only one goal. 'To avoid probate."
But that should be only one goal.
Almost a minor goal. There are many bigger ones. But first, about probate.
Will or no will can lead to probate court
You go to the probate court if you die with a will. Or without one.
In either case, if you don't own any assets in your sole name, then you don't need to go there. Because a major goal of probate is to allow your survivors to get their hands on them.
It goes like this. You identify which assets were in the sole name. Someone prepares several legal documents, then delivered to the probate court. The 'someone' is the person you've named in your will to handle that job.
After a process, the probate court appoints a MA personal representative (PR.
The PR then requests the court for a document. Called a 'letter of authority'. The PR gives a Letter of Authority to each bank or other financial house that hold assets.
The institution hands over the assets. The PR pays bills. What is not needed for debts or taxes you hand over to the persons the will names. Or your heirs at law if there is no will.
Only SOLE assets need probate
Remember: Only assets in your sole name need this process.
Assets not in your sole name go others through non-probate ways. You likely signed a form for each non-probate asset. That form lists a person or two to get the asset. It sits in the file of the financial institution where the money is.
Such as an IRA or retirement account. Life insurance is similar. Differently, joint assets will belong to the surviving joint owner.
The wording on the account is important. Joint assets have words like ''with rights of survivorship.'
Another type of ownership is 'Tenants in Common'.
This is different from joint ownership with survivorship. Each tenant (each person) owns 1/2 of this asset type.
The interest of each tenant in common goes pursuant to your will. It does not pass automatically to the other tenant in common.
It will need to go through probate.
I'm Joel Bernstein, an estate planning attorney with over 30 years of experience. I use plain English to help you understand wills, trusts, and the other documents you need to protect your loved ones and your estate.
Most middle-aged people aren’t ready for their inevitable death. We make estate planning simple, affordable, and quick. So people can live in peace, knowing their affairs are in order.
"Let me outline in general the process we follow to avoid making inadvertent errors to your existing estate planning: