Losing a parent or loved one can be a traumatic, heart-wrenching experience. On top of the emotional stress, you may have the responsibility of distributing your deceased loved one’s property and assets. Estate distribution can be a confusing process and difficult to deal with during a time of loss. Our compassionate probate lawyer at Stern Zwelling, LLC can provide the sound legal counsel and guidance you need.
The process by which you distribute your loved one’s estate will depend on the value of the property and assets and how they are held. Some assets do not need to go through probate to be distributed, for example:
- Property held in joint tenancy: If your deceased loved one’s home or other real estate was held in joint tenancy with another surviving person, the property automatically becomes the sole property of that person upon your loved one’s death. This also applies to joint checking, savings, and other bank accounts.
- Designated beneficiary assets: Beneficiaries are typically named for life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and POD bank accounts. This type of asset will transfer to the beneficiaries without going through probate.
- Living trust assets: Many people place their assets in a living trust (also known as a revocable or inter vivos trust), for their own benefit during their lifetimes, to be transferred to designated beneficiaries at death. Assets are distributed by a successor trustee and the probate court is not involved in the process.
For other types of assets that do not automatically transfer, depending on the circumstances and the value of the assets, the estate can be distributed in one several ways:
- Disposition without Administration (No Probate): When the estate assets do not include any real estate, and the assets are either exempt from creditor claims or do not exceed the amount of the final expenses (funeral costs and medical expenses of last illness), no probate is needed and you can request reimbursement for the final expenses from the assets of the estate. To make this request, a “Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration” form must be filed with the probate court.
- Summary Administration: This is a shortcut process that can be used in cases of estate property value no greater than $75,000 or a death that occurred more than two years ago. You still have to file documents with the probate court to petition for summary administration, but the process is simpler and faster than formal administration.
- Formal Administration: This is the regular probate process for estates that do not qualify for simpler methods. The person named as personal representative (PR) in the will must petition the court to be appointed in that capacity. Once the court has issued Letters of Administration granting authority to act on behalf of the estate, the PR must gather and inventory the assets, pay all debts and taxes, distribute the remainder of the estate to the heirs according to the provisions of the will, and submit a final accounting to the court. Ultimately, the PR will ask the court to close the estate.
At Stern Zwelling, LLC, we have devoted our practice exclusively to estate planning, probate, and probate litigation. Our Boca Raton probate attorney can provide high-quality representation and guidance in the distribution of your deceased loved one’s estate. Contact our office to schedule a consultation.