Your Probate Questions Answered
If you’re like most people, you’ve heard the term, “probate,” but aren’t really sure what it means
other than it happens when someone dies and lawyers are involved. To bring some clarity to the
subject of probate, we’re answering common probate questions below:
What is probate?
Probate is the court process of validating the decedent’s will and settling the estate. The
executor named in the will (or “administrator” if the decedent died “intestate,” meaning without
a will) gathers, protects, appraises, manages, and, eventually, distributes the decedent’s assets
and pays last debts and taxes under the supervision of the probate court.
As executor, do I have to hire a probate attorney or can I do it myself?
Legally, you can probate the estate without an attorney in some states. However, practically, you
should hire a probate attorney. The work is very technical and not intuitive.
The probate attorney is paid from the estate, not from your personal funds. In addition, as
executor you are personally responsible for the estate assets and settlement. If you mess up, you
can be held liable and may lose your personal assets.
Probate attorneys are highly educated and highly trained.
Why do people want to avoid probate?
Many people seek to avoid probate because it’s public, costly, stressful, inconvenient, and
How can I avoid probate?
The following forms of ownership avoid probate:
All assets owned by a revocable living trust
Jointly owned assets
Assets with a beneficiary designation (annuities, life insurance, and retirement accounts)
Assets held in trust for a beneficiary
Pay on death and transfer on death assets
In addition, each state has a threshold and assets under that threshold avoid probate.
And, any assets that you gift away during your lifetime avoid probate.
If you have questions about serving as an executor, probate, or avoiding probate, be sure to
consult with a qualified estate planning attorney.
Experienced estate planning attorneys Davenport IA of the Duffy Law Office offers estate
planning and business planning resources to residents of Davenport IA. To learn more about
these free resources, please visit http://www.duffylawoffice.com/ today.