When dealing with a settlement case, you will have many worries. Will there be any dispute over the rightful owner of the estate? Will you have to pay inheritance taxes? What other nasty surprises might there be along the way? Will I have to go to court? We know it can be a long and painful process, especially after losing a loved one.
In light of that, we have compiled a guide that will help you understand what is on this road ahead of you, and hopefully, help you prepare to deal with it better. Read on for the best knowledge on facing an estate settlement case.
Your first question may well be, “what is probate?”. Probate is simply the name given to the legal process, which begins after a person passes away. It is entirely designed to ensure their estate lands in the right hands and is not stolen, misused, or otherwise poorly managed. Probate laws and timelines vary according to state legislation, but all have the same overriding law and concerns. If you are the executor of a probate case, meaning you are the one seeking to close out someone’s estate after death, you must contact the courts within a specified timeframe.
This starts the process off. There are specialist probate law teams and lawyers available to assist you every step of the way if you feel the need. We’d recommend it if it’s your first time dealing with this or if it’s a particularly large or complicated case.
Proof Of Legal Ownership
Whether there is a will or not, you may need to prove your identity to help bring the rightful owner of the estate into your hands. In most states, an ID and birth certificate would be plenty, but let’s face it, lots of us don’t have our original birth certificate handy! You may need to prove your geniality with some assistance from heir search services. This way, an expert can help prove your identity, relation to the deceased, and legal rights. They can also assist you in court if necessary or work with your legal team to provide all the necessary information required for your proof of legal ownership.
Will and Last Testament
A will is a document in which a living person writes or dictates where and to whom they want their estate and assets passed to after they are gone. Each state has different laws regarding wills and how they must be produced, but in general, the rules are quite simple. Usually, a person must be over 18, of sound mind (able to understand their testament), and have signed the will themselves. In certain cases, someone may write the will on their behalf and sign it in their presence.
Having a will in place makes your situation much easier as the benefactor, as you can usually quite simply prove how assets are to be distributed. A lack of will, however, can lead to far more complex issues and disputes.
One of the first things you need to do is an inventory of all the deceased’s assets. This should include everything the court may investigate or distribute, such as bank accounts, statements, property, valuables, and personal effects. Ensure you are thorough and detailed with your inventory and have valuables and property appraised by a professional.
Money, Bills, Debts
Depending on many factors, there may be various money issues to deal with. You should collect information on how much money is held by the estate, any final bills that may need to be paid, as well as any debts. Figure out how/if any debts will be paid, then the rest can be balanced and distributed to all benefactors. You may also need to file a final tax return for the estate and pay any tax that is due.
In the USA, there are both gift and inheritance taxes, but not in all states. Currently, 21 states have an inheritance or estate tax. There are varying levels of value exemption, starting at $675,000 in New Jersey up to over $5 million in other states. Beyond these thresholds, the percentage of tax you may also pay widely varies. If you are worried about paying inheritance taxes, then look up the rules and values for your local area.
These are the key things you need to understand and prepare yourself before beginning to settle an estate case. It may be a long process and can be quite stressful. But, by preparing yourself and understanding these points, you can get a small headstart. We hope the process is easy and successful for you.