What is the Purpose of Probate?
Over a lifetime, most people accumulate material possessions and have financial assets that they work hard to accumulate/achieve. While we are alive, these things are very important to us. We may work hard to support other people financially; and when it comes to sentimental possessions, we often want to ensure those items are passed down to other generations.
It is safe to say that most people also want to leave a positive legacy behind and continue to care for and protect those they love – even after they are gone. Probate is a safeguard to ensure your wishes are carried out.
Probate helps ensure that all of your chosen beneficiaries or surviving family members receive exactly what you want them to have from your estate. If you have named people specifically in a will, the probate process may be a little simpler than if you pass away intestate – meaning without leaving a will behind. In intestate situations, your estate will be divided pursuant to the laws of intestacy. .
The probate process exists to tie up all of the loose ends of a person’s life. There are many steps involved, including:
- Authentication of the last will and testament
- Location of all the assets
- Determining the value of the estate
- Notifying creditors of the person’s passing
- Paying all outstanding debts owed by the deceased
- Ensuring all tax returns are prepared and filed
- Distributing the estate to the appropriate beneficiaries
These steps are handled by an executor: someone you name in your will or a person assigned by the courts.
Some estates may not need to go through a formal probate process. If your estate has assets under $70,000 and no real estate, the estate may not require a probate action be filed with the court. Even if your estate is larger and no one contests your will, probate may not be necessary. However, a formal process may become time-consuming and expensive if people start demanding inclusion in the will or want a larger portion of the estate. In fact, some probate processes can take months or even years to conclude.
Want to Avoid Probate Completely?
There is a way to avoid probate: set up and fund a living trust instead of a will. Living trusts are not required to go through probate. It is advisable to have an estate planning lawyer help you create your living trust to ensure it is properly prepared. You should also fund the living trust to ensure a probate proceeding is avoided.
The Denver probate lawyers at The Brown Law Firm, LLC can guide you through the probate process, handle the duties of executor or help you create a trust. Contact us at (303) 339-3750 or send us a message online to meet with our experts.