Probate’s a mess. What questions actually get asked in probate? It boils down to three things: Is there a valid will and is there a competing valid will? What are the assets and expenses, debts? Who are the heirs? That’s what probate asks. It really boils down to those three things.
If you need to dig deeper, what happens? Well, it asks first if there’s a valid will. Probate court is going to literally certify that this is the last will of somebody who’s not there anymore. Somebody who can’t stand up and say, “yeah, that’s exactly what I want right there.”
So literally, somebody’s passed away, we can’t ask them, so we have to look at the paperwork. A lot of times the paperwork is called into question. One of the witnesses is the main beneficiary, and guess what? Yeah, they get almost everything.
So it’s really questionable, especially when the only child is written out. Yeah, so is the will valid? Probate court is not gonna jump to any conclusions there. They’re gonna require everybody to bring all their evidence to court and have a big old fight until the judge can decide. Is the will valid?
Number two, what are the assets? This might seem kind of easy, but sometimes it’s not necessarily easy. Not everybody keeps their financial records in a perfectly organized filing system, and so you end up trying to go through the mail and go through their house.
A case we’re working on now? It’s a house that’s full of records that are 15 years old and it’s a mess. So we’ve gotta inventory the records and nobody knows. There’s nobody alive, who knows. So sometimes it’s not that simple. If you wanna make it simple, keep that stuff organized. Then when you start to enter that old age stage, make sure you pass it off to someone and start helping them learn what’s there. But, you’ve got to find it. You’ve got to find it all. That’s the second thing – what are the assets?
Third, who are the heirs? Who’s gonna get stuff? Again, at first blush, it’s like, that’s so simple- It’s the wife, it’s the husband, it’s the kids, right? We’ve had cases recently where a long lost heir came crawling outta the woodwork and claimed to be: I’m the son. I’m the daughter, I’m the half-brother or the half-sister. We literally had to go get DNA testing done to verify they’re really an heir. In one of these cases, the family’s like, we’ve never heard of this person in our life, guess what? The DNA showed, they’re the daughter.
If you don’t have your plan in place, then you’re stuck going to probate. Probate court has to ask those three things.
In probate, the essential questions revolve around three key aspects. Firstly, it’s about verifying the validity of the will. Secondly, the process involves identifying and assessing the assets. Lastly, determining the rightful heirs. To avoid this process, it’s advisable to have a well-organized estate plan in place to ensure a smoother transition of assets and intentions.