When it comes to understanding the law, most people would just as soon have a tooth pulled. This is especially true when it comes to matters about wills, trusts, and probate. Making matters worse, these are issues that, in most cases, matter to people only once or twice in their lifetimes. This doesn’t, however, make them any less important.
Many of the problems surrounding wills, trust, and probate are myths and stem from the fact that all states are different and have different laws that control these matters. That’s why it is wise to contact wills and probate attorneys in the area for answers to your questions. Before then, here are a few of your questions answered.
Dying Without a Will Leaves Everything to the State
This isn’t true. Just because someone dies without a will (called “intestate”) doesn’t mean the state gets everything. If someone dies without a will, state law does kick in to determine who gets what, but each state has its own rules for determine how the estate is divided. A spouse and children are first in line to receive anything. When does the state get assets? Only when relatives can’t be found.
Probate Takes Years
This is another falsehood. In most cases, the only significant amount of time that must pass before probate closes is mandated by law for creditors to collect what they are owed. This period varies from state to state.
Once this period is over, the only thing that requires waiting is for a personal representative of the estate to gather the assets and pay claims and assets. Most estates are closed within a year, but a vast majority only takes a few months.
Things can get a lot more complicated if an estate is significantly large or a challenge filed by family members. In these cases, the issues to resolve them can take considerably longer periods of time.
Probate Costs Can Eat Up an Estate
This is another big falsehood. If you believe most people, lawyers and probate courts will take a significant amount of an estate. This is not true. First, most cases don’t even require probate. Another matter is that most states only require probate when assets are in the deceased’s name only. Further, if these assets are small enough, they often don’t have to go through probate at all.
Leaving Something to a Spouse
Many married couples decide against leaving anything to their spouse, especially when there are children from a previous relationship, or they have assets that they own separately and want to leave them to charity. There is no problem with this, especially if the first spouse dies and the surviving spouse is content with this arrangement.
Troubles usually arise, however, when there are changes in this arrangement, such as when a surviving spouse changes his or her mind. This is when state laws kick in to guide the distribution of an estate.
As neat and tidy as all of this sounds, it may or may not be. That’s when it’s smart to hire an attorney specializing in this matter to help with the estate settlement.