Probate & Probate administration
Probate is the court-supervised process of transferring assets of the deceased to the living. This court proceeding is necessary when you die and your home and other assets remain titled in your name. Generally, proper estate planning will seek to avoid any Probate proceedings upon your death. The most frequently used tool to avoid probate is a Revocable Living Trust.
During the Probate proceeding, an Executor is appointed by the court with legal authority to take control of your assets and then distribute them to your heirs. If you have a Will, you have at least designated who you wish the Executor to be, otherwise, a loved one will need to volunteer or the court will appoint an Executor. Once all probate assets are under the court’s control, the court authorizes the Executor to distribute the assets to your beneficiaries, per your wishes if you have a Will, or as per your state’s intestate laws (dying “Intestate” means dying without a Will or Trust). The entire process can take years to complete, at substantial cost to your estate.
A properly funded Revocable Living Trust can avoid Probate altogether. The Living Trust agreement designates someone to act as a Trustee after your death. Thus, when you die, your designated Trustee steps into your shoes with complete legal authority to distribute your assets without court involvement. The Successor Trustee is legally obligated to follow your instructions set forth in the Living Trust for distribution of the trust assets.
For example, if you own real estate which was properly transferred into the name of your Living Trust, your Successor Trustee, after your death, has full legal authority to transfer the property to your beneficiaries. If necessary, the Trustee can distribute the sale proceeds from your house or simply transfer title to the designated individuals. Your Trustee will handle the transfer of the rest of your assets to the beneficiaries in the same way without court involvement.