If you have recently suffered the loss of a parent, you may have a number of practical and legal questions regarding whether or not you need to probate your parent’s estate. When a decedent dies, many states require the estate assets to pass through a legal process known as probate. Which estates require probate, and which type of probate process is required, or available, will depend on a number of factors.
The most important factor in determining whether an estate must pass through probate is what state the decedent died in, or was a resident in at the time of death. Complications can arise right away regarding which state has jurisdiction in the event that the decedent owned property in more than one state. Once the issue of jurisdiction has been settled, however, the laws of the state with jurisdiction over the estate will dictate which probate procedures are required or available.
Typically, estates with significant assets, real property or where the decedent died intestate–or without leaving a valid Last Will and Testament — must go through formal probate. Formal probate can be lengthy, costly and complicated; however, assets of the estate cannot be transferred until the probate process has been completed through the appropriate court.
While a formal probate process is often required, many states also offer the option of a less formal small estate administration or small estate affidavit. If the decedent’s estate is valued at under a certain dollar amount, which varies by state, then a small estate administration or affidavit may be an option. In essence, both these options allow the estate assets to pass to the beneficiaries in a more rapid manner than a formal probate as well as avoid the often high costs associated with formal probate of an estate.
The only way to know for certain which probate process is required in your particular scenario if to contact an experienced probate attorney. Choosing the wrong process can cost you significant time and money as well as hold up the transfer of your parent’s assets.