Upon the death of a person, the estate belonging to the deceased has to be divided between the people to whom the decedent wanted the estate to go. This is determined by a will, which is written and witnessed by the decedent during his or her lifetime. In the event that there is no will – perhaps one was not left by the decedent or the will cannot be found – the state determines who inherits the estate, and in some cases it may actually go to the state if there is no natural beneficiary to be found. These processes are known as probate.
The probate process is designed to ensure that the estate of the decedent is divided as per his or her wishes during life, which is why it is so important to ensure that you have a will prepared. Nobody knows what life holds in store, and waiting until you have hit old age to make a will isn’t the route to take. It is advisable for people to start thinking about making a will during their thirties or forties – earlier if the person owns any significant assets. The probate process enables the decedent to ensure that the estate goes to the correct beneficiaries.
Another purpose of the probate process is to ensure that any outgoings – debts and taxes – are paid out to the relevant creditors. These costs come out of the estate before the remainder of the estate is distributed to the relevant beneficiaries. Creditors are given an opportunity to file for payment of their debt against the estate, but the claim has to be made by the deadline set during the probate process. The whole process takes around seven months or more.
A will enables the rightful distribution of the decedent’s assets as well as giving other parties a chance to object or ‘contest’ the will. There are a number of reasons why a will may be contested, and a person may contest the will if he or she would have naturally been a beneficiary but has not received a share of the estate. In order for a will to be valid, the testator (the person writing the will) must be:
Of sound mind
Under no outside influence
Witnessed when writing the will
The probate process will aim to ensure that these requirements were adhered to when the will was written, and will aim to prove that the will is a valid one and the most up-to-date one. Any objections to the will by valid parties will significantly delay the probate process while these areas are looked into.
Writing a will is a very important issue for anyone with significant estate such as property, land, business, or large sums of cash in just their own name. If you have a joint account, business, land, or property, your part of the asset normally goes to the surviving partner. Also, assets that have already been assigned beneficiaries such as life insurance policies will not go through probate – these will go to the beneficiary named on the policy.
Making a will is easy and straightforward if you go through a lawyer. Probate, estates and will-making come under the umbrella of family law, and your family lawyer can offer sound advice and assistance to help you make your will as quickly, effortlessly, and conveniently as possible. A family lawyer can answer any questions or concerns you have with regards to getting a will made, and you can make the whole process far easier and more manageable by going through an experienced family lawyer.
Wills can be complex at times, and if any questions are raised regarding the validity of the will after your death your assets may end up with someone other than the beneficiary you named. By going through a family lawyer to complete your will, you can ensure that the documents are completed in adherence to regulations, and that there is minimal risk of any problems with the will. You can also leave a copy of your will with the family lawyer as a safeguard in case any concerns are raised with your will and estate after your death.
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