As a technical matter, probate is when you ‘prove’ a will of a deceased person, and have it recorded in the proper court of law. The will is then available for view by the public at large as the true last (will and) testament of the decedent. Probate is also a process whereby a decedent’s ‘probate estate’ is marshalled (gathered up) by an executor (or administrator), who then pays the estate’s debts and settles any claims, and who ultimately distributes the remaining assets according to the terms of the will.
If there is no will, distribution is governed by state law. ‘Probate assets’ include ONLY those assets owned by the decedent alone with no co-owner and no beneficiary. Assets in a revocable living trust generally avoid probate. If you have questions concerning probate, please contact us for a consultation.
Planning for lifetime gifts and the disposition of assets at death is the essence of preparing an estate plan. This process includes reviewing your life insurance, ownership interests in asset, businesses, real estate, and beneficiary statements, and then preparing a will or a revocable trust with a will that either directs your desired outcome, or supports prior decisions made with regard to your assets.
Here are some common questions when considering your estate plan:
- Do you have minor children? If so, have you named a guardian for them in the event that both parents pass away?
- How do you own your assets and have you named a beneficiary for any or all of your assets?
- Will you rely on a Will? A trust? What's the difference?
- Would you rather just let state law decide how your assets are distributed, and by whom, when you die?
- Have you executed a will or trust that you downloaded or accessed online? If so, does it do what YOU want it to do?
- If so, are you sure that it is valid and will achieve your desires?
- Do you have a will or trust that was prepared years ago?
- Does it still meet your needs?
These are just some of the many questions we address when working with our clients in preparing their Estate Plan. We often work with our client's financial advisors, accountants, and other professionals to craft the plan that they want. As we say in our office: "This is your plan. You don't sign it unless and until you're happy."Have You Been Named as an Executor of Someone's Will and Probate Estate, or Trustee of Their Trust? Have You Accepted?
If you ARE an executor or trustee, then you are a fiduciary with important rights and obligations. Are you ready for the job?
We can help with the administration of a deceased loved one's estate or trust. Depending on the facts and circumstances, and how your loved one arranged his or her finances and ownership, your service as executor or trustee can be complicated and involve certain liabilities that you most assuredly would rather avoid.
Please contact us at 703-865-7480 so we may be able to assist you with your estate and trust administration needs.