The process of probate is often overlooked by people who don’t know much about estate planning. If you haven’t done any research, you may assume that a will is something that takes care of itself after you die. You name an executor in the document, and this individual will distribute assets in accordance with your wishes without any particular supervision.
This is a commonly held belief, but in reality, things do not work in this manner. There are people and entities beyond the inheritors who could have an interest in an estate, and others could question the validity of a will. To account for this, there is a legal process called probate.
The executor that is named in the will would be required to admit the will to probate after the passing of the testator. If there was no executor named in the will, the court would appoint a personal representative to act as the estate administrator.
During probate, the executor would have to identify all the property that was contained within the estate. Plus, final debts would be paid during probate, so the executor would be required to notify creditors. Taxes would also be paid during the probate process.
Since the executor would be handling certain expenses, a bank account would be established on behalf of the estate, so there is a certain amount of liability that the executor would have to assume. Ultimately, when the court finds that everything is in order, the estate would be closed and the executor would be able to distribute assets to the heirs.
Choosing an Executor
If you do decide to maintain possession of your property through to the time of your death and arrange for its distribution through the terms of a will, you should be very discerning when you are choosing an executor. As you can tell from the description that we have provided, there are a lot of business oriented tasks that must be completed.
We would all like to think that everyone that we love will always be on the same page, but in fact, families can be complicated these days. As a result, the executor may have to address competing interests, so you definitely want to name an executor who is completely impartial.
When you think about naming an executor, you are probably going to consider people that you know personally. It can be challenging to identify someone who has all the proper attributes. Plus, there is the time factor. The role of executor can consume a lot of time and energy.
Longevity and geography are other factors to take into consideration. It would be logical to name someone mature to act as your executor, but life expectancy is going to enter the picture. And of course, if the executor lives 3000 miles away from the property that comprises the estate, this can be an obstacle.
All the tasks that will fall to the executor can be a bit overwhelming for someone who is not experienced. To make things easier on the executor that you choose, you could arrange for the lawyer that you retained to draw up your will to act as the probate attorney. In this manner, the executor would have a ready legal resource to rely upon during the probate process.
Another thing you should understand is that you really do not have to use an individual that is known to you to act as the executor. There are banks and trust companies that provide estate administration services. If you use a corporate administrator, you overcome many of the potential challenges that we have touched upon.
Lastly, we should point out the fact that you do not have to use a last will as your assets transfer vehicle. There are estate planning techniques that can be implemented that would facilitate asset transfers outside of probate.
Schedule a Consultation
There are a lot of things to take into consideration when you are planning your estate. If you act quickly without a full understanding of all the facts, you may wind up with an estate plan that leads to difficulties for your family after you are gone.
Our firm can help if you would like to discuss everything in detail with a licensed professional who has a deep connection to the Maryland community. We would be glad to sit down with you, get to know you, and answer all your questions. If you decide to proceed, we can help you craft the perfect estate plan.
If you would like to get started, send us a message through our contact page or give us a call at (410) 573-4818 to set up a consultation.