Everybody wants to be sure that their family receives the care they need when they pass away. Though it can be stressful to consider the future and plan for such events, drafting a will or trust is imperative to ensuring the fair distribution and division of your property and sparing your loved ones the task of dividing it. Without a will or trust, this task often results in disputes within the family that go through probate.
Probate is the court system dedicated to handling a person’s belongings and property after he or she dies. If you have a will or trust in place, the court will simply verify the document. If not, the court will typically take the following steps in order to manage your estate.
1. Appointing an executor
According to the American Bar Association, it is the responsibility of the executor to oversee and settle an estate according to the will. Of course, if probate court is appointing an executor, there is likely no such will to defer to. In such cases, the court may determine an executor based on who is competent and available to manage the estate.
2. Paying off outstanding debts
In probate court, after appointing an executor, the executory must account for the outstanding debts of the decedent to settle them. Many people mistakenly believe there is an automatic discharge of debts when a person passes away, but this is not true of all debt. Typically, after identifying the debts, the funds in the decedent’s estate or sale of their property goes toward paying them off.
3. Distributing property
After appointing an executor and settling the debts, it is time to distribute the remaining property of the estate to the family members who may claim it. This is the part of the process that most often results in discord and dispute. You can avoid such a struggle by consulting with an attorney and drafting your trust or will ahead of time.