One of our common goals in the estate planning process is to simplify the process of handling your affairs upon your death for your heirs. One of the ways in which the estate process can be made less burdensome for your heirs is to avoid the formal probate process. The formal probate process involves opening a case before a court with proper jurisdiction and following Indiana’s detailed laws regarding distributions and claims.
If there is contention among your heirs about how the estate is handled, the estate can be designated as a “supervised estate” and a judge will take an active role in making sure that it is handled correctly. If there are no disputes between the heirs, the probate estate may be designated as “unsupervised” and the judge will remain in the background until and unless there is a dispute. Whether supervised or unsupervised, the formal probate process can be time-consuming. Distributions to beneficiaries are delayed while the court ensures that all creditors entitled to recover from the estate are paid. Real estate subject to probate typically must be appraised before it is distributed or sold. Your personal representative will likely need to hire an attorney to assist them with completing the estate process. Finally, probate proceedings are matters of public record. The precautions that delay the probate process can be appropriate and welcome under some circumstances. They can, however, be an unwelcome and unnecessary set of hurdles separating your heirs from their inheritances.
Good planning can help your estate avoid formal probate procedures. Your probate estate consists of only those assets titled in your sole name (properly titled joint assets go directly to the surviving joint owner) and not otherwise transferred by law upon your death (such as by a transfer on death deed, beneficiary designation, or other such documents). If the total value of all of your probate assets less the administrative expenses of your estate (including unpaid funeral expenses, personal representative fees, and attorney fees) is less than the small estate limit set by Indiana law, a probate case may not have to be opened and transfer of estate assets to heirs may be made by affidavit.
At Schulz Reagan LLC, we can help you analyze your assets and determine whether careful use of designated beneficiaries and joint ownership will enable your estate to be handled outside of probate. We can work to re-title assets, clarify beneficiary designations and consider lifetime gifts that will help you assist your heirs in avoiding unnecessary delays and expenses related to the probate process.
Disclaimer: This summary is not intended to be comprehensive, and should not be construed as legal advice for your particular situation. Nothing in this website is intended to substitute for legal representation.