In Family Matters Financial Series Part 4, Kim Montgomery details the probate procedure process and the difference between an heir and a beneficiary. Late joining this series? Catch up from the beginning with Part 1 or from last week’s Part 3!
Family Matters Financial Series Part 4: Probate Procedures/Heirs and Beneficiaries
What is Probate?
It is the legal process of a state court to establish the validity of a last will and to carry it into effect.
Probate – The court procedure by which a Will is proven to be the valid last Will of a decedent; used generically to refer to the legal process of administering a decedent’s estate.
- The laws of each state vary, so it is a good idea to consult a Probate attorney to determine whether a probate proceeding is necessary, whether the fiduciary must be bonded (a requirement that is often waived in the will) and to determine what reports must be prepared for the court.
- Probate is required to settle outstanding debts, transfer property to heirs and beneficiaries, notify government entities regarding the decedent’s death, pay estate taxes, and file a final tax return
How Long Does the Probate Procedure Take?
If heirs agree to the terms of the Will, the probate process can usually be completed within a few months.
The average time frame to settle intestate estates is 6 to 9 months, but if creditor claims are submitted against the estate, probate can be prolonged for several months.
When family members disagree over the distribution of assets or if an heir contests the Will, probate can be extended for a year or longer.
Heirs and Beneficiaries
The term heir is used within a last will and testament and trusts to designate family members entitled to inheritance property.
When decedents DO NOT execute a Will their estate is called ‘intestate’ and is settled according to state probate law.
Direct lineage heir refers to blood relatives such as parents, siblings, and children, as well as the decedent’s spouse. Heirs can also include cousins, aunts, and uncles.
Individuals who inherit property, but are not directly related to the decedent are often referred to as beneficiaries.
Heirs (or unrelated persons) can be named as beneficiaries on bank accounts, life insurance policies, financial portfolios, retirement accounts, and certain types of titled property such as real estate. This can become somewhat confusing, an heir can be a beneficiary, but a beneficiary is not always an heir.
Beneficiaries can be assigned to checking and savings accounts by filling out ‘Payable on Death’ forms where funds are held. Account holders can bequeath funds to as many beneficiaries as they desire.
Heirs cannot access bank accounts until they present the death certificate, photo I.D, and valid documents, such as letters testamentary or letters of administration from the probate court. I invite you to please visit my website to forward any questions or comments you may have.
I look to forward to connecting!
Create a Great Day.