After your loved one passes, their estate will have to go through probate. Probate is a process by which a court validates the contents of your loved one’s will so that their assets can be properly distributed. But for those who are unfamiliar with the process, probate can seem intimidating. Here are four frequently asked questions that most people have about probate.
1. How long will probate take?
There are several factors that contribute to how long the probate process will take. Depending on how big the estate is, how many beneficiaries there are, where those beneficiaries are located and if any disputes arise determines how long probate will last. Generally, probate can take anywhere from a few months to a couple years.
While probate may take a while, it’s important that all debts are forgiven and all assets go to their proper beneficiaries. And this can take time. If you want it done thoroughly and correctly, there’s no rushing it.
2. Who is in charge of the process?
Whoever was named personal representative in your loved one’s will is the person who oversees the probate process. The court will officially appoint this person to head the distribution and transfer of assets. However, if the will did not name someone as personal representative, the court will choose someone.
The personal representative is in charge of paying debts and taxes, preparing the assets for transfer and distributing the estate. A responsible and willing personal representative can help the process run as smoothly and effectively as possible.
3. Is probate avoidable?
Probate can often be a concern for people who wish to save time and money. For assets placed in a will, probate is usually unavoidable. However, under certain circumstances, probate is not necessary. In Massachusetts, an estate can transfer without probate if:
- Jointly-owned property passes onto a beneficiary through right of survivorship
- Your loved one left assets in a trust rather than a will
- Accounts such as bank or retirement savings have payable-on-death designations
4. Do I need a probate attorney?
Although a personal representative is in charge of managing the estate through probate, it can be a complex process. A probate attorney can help you prepare for probate and guide you through the process with as minimal stress as possible.