An estate executor is responsible for settling decedent estates and distributing inheritance property to designated beneficiaries. Estate administration can encompass everything from making funeral arrangements to selling real estate. Duties vary depending on the types of inheritance property and whether the estate must undergo probate or is protected by a trust.
In most cases, the estate executor will require help from a probate lawyer or estate planner. Settling probate estates is generally more time-consuming than settling estates protected by a trust. Estate management can be more complicated when decedents die without executing a last will and testament. The probate process can take several months to complete. Estate administrators must secure and inventory personal property. Valuable assets such as real estate and automobiles must be appraised to determine the date-of-death value. All outstanding debts must be paid and a final tax return filed. Once estate matters are settled, inheritance property is distributed. Decedents designate heirs and beneficiaries within their Will. If no Will exists, distribution of assets occurs based on state probate law. Property is usually transferred to the decedents surviving spouse or direct lineage heirs such as children, siblings, or parents.
Some states require estate executors who are managing probate estates to obtain court confirmation. This means that all transactions must be presented to the court for approval. Other states allow estate administrators to manage the estate without court approval. Additionally, many states require estate executors to become bonded because they act as a fiduciary. By law, estate executors must be at least 18 years of age and never convicted of a felony. Individuals should give careful consideration when designating an estate administrator. Sadly, death often brings out the worst in people and can lead to family squabbles over who should receive inheritance gifts. Heirs who feel slighted or were left out of the Will can contest the Will, which will prolong the probate process and add additional legal expenses to the estate.
When heirs contest a decedent’s last Will they are responsible for legal fees. If a judge rules in their favor, the estate may be required to reimburse legal fees. Contesting a Will often causes financial hardship to the estate and reduces the amount of inheritance cash available. When possible, estate executors should strive to reach an amicable agreement to prevent the Will from being contested. Individuals who choose to disinherit an heir from their Will should include a disinheritance clause. Stating the reason for disinheritance can lessen the chance of having the Will contested. When family strife exists, individuals should consider retaining the services of a probate attorney to manage estate settlement duties. Heirs are often less inclined to initiate a lawsuit when lawyers are appointed to manage the estate. Individuals can engage in estate planning strategies which allow certain assets to avoid probate. These can include life insurance policies, retirement accounts, checking and savings accounts, and investment portfolios.
It is important to advise estate administrators of the location of important documents and provide a copy of the last Will. When records are stored in a safe deposit box, a key should be given to the probate executor. It is also smart to provide copies of real estate deeds, automobile titles, and life insurance policies. Individuals should update their Will when major changes occur. These might include buying or selling real estate, adding new heirs, or taking out individuals previously named within the Will.
Many people procrastinate about estate planning. However, dying without a Will prolongs the probate process and places additional duties on the appointed estate executor. Taking time to put affairs in order is one of the greatest gifts anyone can leave their loved one.
Creating a basic plan of your estate, irrespective of its net worth, will largely ensure that your financial goals and familial responsibilities are met even when you are personally unable to do so. An estate plan has four main elements to it: creating a will, assigning the power of attorney, making a living will and establishing a trust (if required). When creating this estate plan, bear in mind the state and federal laws applicable to your estate. If you reside in West Haven Utah, then you can consult an estate lawyer West Haven Utah to clarify details about these laws. Here are a few aspects that you need to know about when planning your estate.
Know The Importance Of A Will
A will informs people about how you want your assets to be shared after your death. ‘Intestacy’ refers to an estate’s condition when its owner dies without having in place a will determining its distribution. This can be detrimental to those succeeding the person as neither they nor the person who owned the estate will then have a say in who gets how much of it. Most often in such situations, it is the state that determines who gets how much of the assets. A will affords the provision of making changes to it after it has been created. Also, as a will can be amended at any time, you can review yours periodically. It is also important to review your life insurance, IRA and pension policies along with your will. This is because, irrespective of what is mentioned in a will, these policy accounts are automatically transferred to named beneficiaries on death of the account holder.
Make An Inventory Of Assets
One of the first steps that need to be taken when creating an estate plan is making an asset inventory. This will comprise your investments, insurance policies and retirement savings. It will also include interests on your business and real estate. When making an asset inventory, address two important questions. Firstly, according to you who should inherit these assets? Secondly, in case you are incapacitated who would you want to handle financial matters? Once these questions are answered and an outline for how the estate plan should be executed has been created, discuss it with heirs. This can go a long way in reducing the chances for disagreements after the asset holder’s death. Making an asset inventory with the help of an estate lawyer Toronto can be extremely beneficial. With the lawyer’s inputs you will be able to make arrangements for your estate such that drains from taxes will be minimal.
Create A Trust
Having a trust can be beneficial if you have a minimum net worth of $100,000 and meet one of the five following conditions. First is that you have relatively large assets in an art collection, business or real estate. Second is that you want your assets to be given to heirs on certain conditions. Third is that you want your spouse to benefit from the assets but also want other heirs to inherit it after the spouse’s death. Fourth is that both your spouse and you want to ensure maximum exemptions from estate tax. Fifth is that you have a relative who is disabled and you would like to provide for him without disqualifying him from medical assistance. Depending on which of these five conditions you satisfy, you can select from the different types of standard trusts available. Consulting an estate lawyer Toronto can make it easier to decide whether you need a trust and if so, which will be beneficial.
How To Proceed With Probate When There Are Missing Heirs?
One thing that is clear with each probate case is that every family is different. Some families agree about what should happen with the estate, and others do not. But what happens when the person who passes away has heirs who cannot be located? Whether an individual is an heir or a beneficiary of an estate depends on if the person who passed away, also called the decedent, had a Will. When there is a Will, the individuals or charities named in the Will are beneficiaries of the estate. But, if there was no Will, the family members who could inherit property are called the heirs. When a probate estate is opened but some of the heirs cannot be located, the personal representative has the responsibility of locating the heirs, or at least making the best efforts possible to locate those heirs. There are a few ways that this can be accomplished.
1. Affidavit of Heirs
An Affidavit of Heirs is a document that is prepared for the court and lists all of the known heirs of the individual who passed away. It is important that the person filling out the document is familiar with the family of the decedent so that they can provide adequate information on the heirs. If there are questions about some of the relatives, it is important to try and communicate with other family members to get the necessary information. The Affidavit of Heirs asks about the names, addresses, ages, and dates of death of the relatives of the decedent. While the spouse and children are typically easy categories to complete, other relatives such as grandparents or aunts and uncles of the decedent are often a little more difficult to have all of the information for. It should be noted that just because a relative is listed on the Affidavit of Heirs, this does not mean that they are necessarily entitled to inherit from the estate. That being said, by filling out the Affidavit of Heirs completely, the probate process can move more quickly because the court knows where the potential heirs are located.
2. Heir Search
An heir search is exactly what it sounds like – it is a search for heirs. The search can either determine who the heirs are or the location of the heirs. A number of companies provide the service of conducting an heir search on behalf of someone for an estate. These companies will do a search to determine all of the heirs of an individual and attempt to locate them. This can be useful for filling in gaps on the family tree and then being able to locate and contact those heirs if necessary. Some probates will be opened where the decedent’s heirs are. Heir searches help to provide a clearer picture of the heirs that need to be included in the probate process. Another option that works for some families is hiring a private investigator to look into the heirs and the current addresses for those heirs. This is not the best option for every probate but may be helpful in certain situations. If you choose to use an heir search service, please ensure that you have read reviews or other information about the heir search before proceeding with a particular company.
Another option to locate heirs is to run publication in a newspaper. While this can be useful and even required by the court, publication will only help if someone sees the notice in the newspaper. The publication would include information such as the probate case number and the name of the decedent. Generally, publication will not be the only step that someone takes to locate heirs in an estate.
Determining the Rightful Heirs of an Estate
Probate is the process of administering the property of somebody who has passed away according to his or her last will and testament or according to the rules of intestate succession when there is no will or a will is found to be invalid. The probate court is concerned with determining the decedent’s rightful heirs, as well as ensuring a decedent’s financial obligations are met and transferring legal title in the decedent’s property to the heirs. Formal probate and summary probate are the two main forms of probate. The former is filed when the value of the estate is greater than $75,000. The latter is filed when the total estate is under $75,000 or when a decedent died two or more years before the filing date. In some cases, a decedent’s will or trust is invalid. Without a valid will, the rightful heirs will be determined by the rules of intestate succession. These rules allow the surviving spouse to receive the entire estate if the decedent did not leave behind any descendants. If there are descendants, usually the surviving spouse and surviving children share in the assets of a deceased person’s estate. When there is no surviving spouse, or any surviving children, the estate’s assets pass to the parents. If there are no surviving parents, the next in line to inherit under intestate succession rules are the decedent’s siblings.
In other cases, a will or trust is unreliable because it contradicts or changes the terms of prior wills or similar documents. In some cases, this is the result of undue influence on the testator (the maker of the will), while in other cases a testator may have lacked the full mental capacity to understand what was happening when he or she signed the will. It is all too common for wealthy but vulnerable elderly people to be preyed upon in West Haven Utah by individuals hoping to manipulate them in order to be named in a will or trust. The rightful heirs may be cut off because the decedent suffered a mental illness or age-related cognitive decline. If someone coerced, manipulated, or threatened an elderly decedent to change his or her will, it may be possible for the rightful heir to file a will contest, challenging the changed version.
When there are heirs that need to be located, it is important to communicate with other family members and heirs to attempt to locate anyone whose name or address you do not know. This information is essential for the Affidavit of Heirs, which can help to progress the probate process. If there are still people whose names you do not know or if you do not know where they are currently living, an heir search can be useful to obtain that information. Finally, there is also the option of publishing a notice in a newspaper to try and locate heirs.
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It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!
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