Probate, in its simplest term, is the transferring of one's property following their death. The process itself can be costly and lengthy. There are a few ways to avoid probate, which we have talked about in previous blog posts, However actions must have been taken prior to a death for those other options to be implemented.
Probate is supervised by the courts; typically, all probate property is collected, debts from the estate are paid, all rights to income and dividends are collected, disputes are resolved and then finally remaining property is distributed. Although a will is typically used to express the wishes of the decedent with regards to his or her property, exceptions can be made and the courts may override specifics in a will, such as a spouse's right to a percentage of property and a creditor's right to property.
When a will is contested in probate, typically an heir who disagrees with the outcome claims that either the will was not formed legally, or that the decedent was not of a viable mental capacity to properly create the will. The courts will then review the information and claim and act accordingly.
Regardless of your age or the value of the property and assets you own, it is in everyone's best interest to have a will created to assure that the property is allocated per your wishes. Even a healthy American can experience a sudden illness or accident that could change their life in a heartbeat. While estate planning may not be at the top of everyone's priorities, it is something that can make things significantly easier and less expensive in the event of a sudden illness or injury that jeopardizes one's well-being.
Source: findlaw.com, "The Probate Basics," Accessed May 16, 2017