When someone dies, the term "probate" usually refers to the legal process whereby the deceased's assets are collected together and, following various legal and fiscal steps and processes, eventually distributed to the beneficiaries of the estate. Technically the term has a particular legal meaning, but it is generally used within the English legal profession as a term to cover all procedures concerned with the administration of a deceased person's estate. As a legal discipline the subject is vast and it is only possible in an article such as this to cover the most common situations, but even that only scratches the surface.
A probate proceeding may involve either formal or informal procedures. Traditionally, probate proceedings were governed by formal procedures that required the probate court to hold hearings and issue orders involving routine matters. Consequently, the legal costs of probating an estate could be substantial. States that have adopted the UPC provisions on probate procedures allow informal probate proceedings that remove the probate court from most stages of the process, with the result that informal probate is cheaper and quicker than formal probate. Most small estates benefit from an informal probate proceeding.
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.
Life insurance serves as a source to pay death taxes and expenses, fund business buy-sell agreements, and fund retirement plans. If sufficient insurance proceeds are available and the policies are properly structured, any income tax on the deemed dispositions of assets following the death of an individual can be paid without resorting to the sale of assets. Proceeds from life insurance that are received by the beneficiaries upon the death of the insured are generally income tax-free.
One way to avoid U.S. Federal estate and gift taxes is to distribute the property in incremental gifts during the person's lifetime. Individuals may give away as much as $15,000 per year (in 2018) without incurring gift tax. Other tax free alternatives include paying a grandchild's college tuition or medical insurance premiums free of gift tax—but only if the payments are made directly to the educational institution or medical provider.
This affidavit is a document that can be used when someone dies without a will and the estate consists mostly of real property titled in the decedent’s name. Under Texas law, the affidavit becomes evidence about the property once it has been on file for five years in the county in which the decedent’s property is located. Its legal effect is that it creates a clean chain of title transfer to the decedent’s heirs.
An executor is a person appointed by a will to act on behalf of the estate of the will-maker (the "testator") upon his or her death. An executor is the legal personal representative of a deceased person's estate. The appointment of an executor only becomes effective after the death of the testator. After the testator dies, the person named in the will as executor can decline or renounce the position, and if that is the case should quickly notify the probate court registry accordingly.
When Aretha Franklin died intestate—without a legal will—in 2018, she joined a surprisingly long list of famous people, including Prince, who also did the same. By not preparing the documents, she made the task of settling her affairs more complicated for her survivors. While your estate may not be as large or complex as a famous singer's, it's still important to have a plan in place in the event of your death.