Probate is the legal process by which assets are organized and accounted for, then distributed to creditors and beneficiaries. It requires various filings with the Probate Court. The process can be fairly simple or complex depending on a number of factors. These factors, among others, include:
- The complexity of the family/beneficiaries and their relationships,
- How much the estate is worth
- The asset composition including state location,
- Creditor claims,
- Medicaid and other governmental claims,
- The competency of the deceased when any estate planning decisions were made,
- Whether the estate is solvent (i.e. Are there more creditor claims than assets),
- Whether there is a will, is it self-proving, and
- Is there a proper, probate avoidance trust.
Several of the above factors are influenced by the Estate Plan. Such a plan can take advantage of actions to minimize probate as it minimizes the cost of probate. A proper plan protects the Principal and ensures that, upon death, the remaining assets get to the desired beneficiaries efficiently and more quickly. Having said that, most often, some measure of probate is required by law.
In any event, we believe that entering probate without even consulting with a Probate Attorney is asking for unnecessary problems. But, that does not mean you should not understand what is happening yourself. One very good starting place is a document put out by the New Hampshire Courts: Administering An Estate