If you’ve looked into creating a will or trust, you’ve probably heard the word “probate” quite a bit. If no one has explained it to you, it can be confusing. In this blog, we will go over some of the basics of probate, including what it means, why you should do everything possible to prevent your loved ones from having to go through probate, and why some things almost automatically go through probate. If you or someone you love is getting older, it is a good idea to seek legal advice in order to protect everyone’s best interests and finances.

At Safe Harbor Wills and Trusts in Watertown, our dedicated attorneys are here to help you with wills, trusts, asset protection, and probate matters. We have chosen this field because we believe it is important that a person’s wishes are carried out in the way that they saw fit. We can help make sure that happens. Contact us today.

A Few Legal Terms Defined

Asset: An asset is any property or claim to a right that a person owns and which has a dollar value. Assets can be anything from cash, retirement funds, property, goods, stocks, and the legal rights to patents or the rights to manufacture or distribute a product.

Will: A will is a legal document that lays out your final wishes as clearly as possible. Some of the most common items found in a will include the naming of an executor (the person who will be responsible for distributing a deceased person’s assets and properties as laid out in the will), how assets and debts will be divided and paid, and information about who you would like to take care of your children, property, and pets.

Trust: A trust is like a will except that it can take effect as soon as it is signed or at a predetermined time. Trusts can often be administered by a third party and are sometimes designed to provide access to some money or assets to a beneficiary while the benefactor is still alive and also after the benefactor has died.

What is Probate, Exactly?

In the most simple terms, probate is the act of proving the validity of a will after someone has died. If a will was drawn up that covered all of a person’s assets and debts, probate is a relatively straightforward procedure that lasts for several weeks or a month or so. During probate, assets that are in the deceased person’s name (bank accounts, etc.) will be transferred to the designated heirs while items that were specifically designated for one person or another are transferred to them. Having a will with as many assets as possible already divided between heirs can greatly speed up this process and will make it so the beneficiaries don’t have to fight it out in court to get what they believe is theirs.

If there is no will, or the only will doesn’t cover everything, probate can become a long and messy procedure. In our next blog, we will continue to go over the basic ins-and-outs of probate as well as how a will can help your living heirs avoid expensive legal fees and more heartbreak. The death of a loved one is hard enough to deal with and when money or items of real or sentimental value are at stake, it can cause a lot of problems.

If you or an elderly relative needs a will drawn up to protect important assets, please call us at Safe Harbor Wills and Trusts. We will do everything possible to make a difficult time easier to get through.