If anyone holds an original Last Will and Testament of someone who dies, they must file it with the probate court, in the county where the decedent resided before death. It is against the law to destroy or alter someone’s Last Will and Testament.
Once the Last Will and Testament is filed in the probate court, the judge will determine if there was any fraud or undue influence during the making of the Will. The judge determines if the Will was properly executed and the person was competent when they signed the Will.
A personal representative (executor, administrator) should be nominated by the Will or the judge will appoint one. During the probate process, the personal representative will collect all the decedent’s assets and have the value determined. All debtors are notified and all liabilities are paid, including any taxes owed. Any assets left are dispersed to the beneficiaries listed in the Will or by statute.
If there are assets (real estate) located in other states then where the decedent resided, a probate case must be opened in each state where the asset is located.
If any asset in their estate is owned jointly or there is a beneficiary listed, this asset will not go through probate. The asset is given directly to the joint owner or beneficiaries. However, if the joint owner or beneficiary is deceased and there is no other joint owner or successor beneficiary listed, then the asset will need to go through probate court. Also, if the beneficiary is listed as “to the estate of” with the decedent’s name, it will go through probate court.
Lesson Summary: If you have a Last Will and Testament or you do not have a Will (intestate) you must do something else to have your assets avoid Probate Court!