Whether to spend your time and effort planning to avoid probate depends on a number of factors, most notably your age, your health, and your wealth. If you're young and in good health, adopting a complex probate-avoidance plan now may mean you'll have to re-do it as your life situation changes. And if you have very little property, you might not want to spend your time planning to avoid probate because your property may qualify for your state's simplified probate procedure.
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.
In general, the probate court probates the wills of deceased persons; establishes guardianships for incapacitated persons and minors; supervises the administration of the estates of deceased persons and incapacitated persons and minors; hears matters involving inter vivos, testamentary and charitable trusts; and hears all cases involving civil mental health commitments.
Will contests are concerned only with external validity, such as failure of due execution, fraud, mistake, undue influence, lack of testamentary capacity, or lack of intent that the instrument be a will. Issues of internal validity, such as violation of the Rule against Perpetuities, must be raised in proceedings at a later stage of administration. Although a will has been probated as a genuine expression of the testator's intended distribution of property upon her or his death, the estate might be disposed of according to the laws of descent and distribution if the testamentary provisions violate the law.
Applications for probate are made to the probate office in the jurisdiction with which the deceased has a close connection, not necessarily where the person died. Normally, only the executor of a will can apply for a grant of probate, and it is their duty to obtain probate in a timely manner. Executors can apply for probate themselves (which is often done to reduce legal fees) or be represented by a lawyer. With the application for probate, the applicant must also provide the original of the will, an official death certificate (not the one issued by a medical professional), a copy of the death notice and a statement of the known assets and liabilities of the deceased estate. The applicant may also be required to have published a notice in a major newspaper of an intention to make the application for probate.
Administrator of an Estate is the legal term referring to a person appointed by the Court to administer the estate of a person who died intestate (without leaving a will). This administrator will enjoy privileges similar to those of an executor, including the settling of debts, the payment of taxes and funeral expenses, and the distribution of the remaining assets.
Next, start adding your non-tangible assets to your list, such as things you own on paper or other entitlements that are predicated on your death. Items listed here would include brokerage accounts, 401(k) plans, IRAs, bank accounts, life insurance policies, and other policies such as long-term care, homeowners, auto, disability, and health insurance.