Some states have procedures that allow for the transfer of assets from small estates through affidavit or through a simplified probate process. For example, California has a “Small Estate Summary Procedure” to allow the summary transfer of a decedent's asset without a formal Probate proceeding. The dollar limit by which the Small Estate procedure can be effectuated is $150,000.
If no formal probate proceeding is necessary, the court does not appoint an estate administrator. Instead, a close relative or friend serves as an informal estate representative. Normally, families and friends choose this person, and it is not uncommon for several people to share the responsibilities of paying debts, filing a final income tax return and distributing property to the people who are supposed to get it.
Probate usually works like this: After your death, the person you named in your will as executor—or, if you die without a will, the person appointed by a judge—files papers in the local probate court. The executor proves the validity of your will and presents the court with lists of your property, your debts, and who is to inherit what you've left. Then, relatives and creditors are officially notified of your death.
Beyond the absence of a challenge, there is also the question of probate administration, either Independent Administration or Dependent Administration. An executor can request Independent Administration if the will says they can ask for this. If the will says nothing about administration, all the beneficiaries agree that Independent Administration is the proper course of action. In this case, the executor does not have to post bond and no court supervision is required for the executor to take the steps needed to settle the estate. However, the executor must still publish notice of the probate (to inform potential creditors of the probate) and file an inventory of the estate’s assets.
Under the Wills Act 1959, the youngest age to write a Will is when he/she is 18 years old, whereas for Sabah, it is 21 years old. At the time of signing a Will, the testator as the maker of the Will, must have sound mind which means he/she must be fully aware of the document he/she is signing is a Will, understand the contents of his/her Will and is not intoxicated by drugs or any mental illness affecting his/her mental capacity. At the time of signing, he must not be under duress or undue influence. In addition, when the Will is signed by the testator, there must be at least two witnesses who are at least 18 years old, of sound mind and they are not visually impaired. The role of the witnesses is only to attest that the testator signed his/her Will.
Believe it or not, you have an estate. In fact, nearly everyone does. To name a few examples, your estate includes your car, home, bank accounts, life insurance, and investments—and no matter how large or how modest—it is all part of your estate. But estate planning goes beyond your possessions: it is the steps people take during their lives to strategize and prepare for incapacity, illness, and passing on. Estate planning is ultimately taking care of your loved ones by taking care of yourself.
A will includes the appointment of an executor or executors. One of their duties is to apply to the Probate Division of the High Court for a grant of probate. An executor can apply to a local probate registry for a grant themselves but most people use a probate practitioner such as a solicitor. If an estate is small, some banks and building societies allow the deceased's immediate family to close accounts without a grant, but there usually must be less than about £15,000 in the account for this to be permitted.
An agreement among heirs and beneficiaries not to contest a will is a way to avoid a costly will contest proceeding. The heirs and beneficiaries negotiate a settlement that may defeat the intention of the testator in how the assets are distributed. A settlement will be valid if all interested parties agree, but it must not exclude anyone entitled to property under the will. Under some statutes the compromise or settlement must be submitted to the probate court for approval.
While you may think that you've covered all your bases, it may be a good idea to consult with a professional on a full investment and insurance plan. And if it's been a while, you may want to revisit your plan. As you get older, your needs may change, such as figuring out if you need long-term care insurance and protecting your estate from a large tax bill or lengthy court processes. Professionals will also be up on changes in legislation and income or estate tax laws, which could impact your bequests.