Probate isn’t a bad word |

Probate isn’t a bad word

Many people want to avoid probate like they want avoid the plague. But probate is not a four-letter word. Depending upon your circumstances and the needs of your family and loved ones, it can be a useful tool for passing property from a deceased person to their heirs.

First, some families need the court supervision in order to provide a forum, with a neutral third party, to ensure that disputes are minimized and that the estate is efficiently and fairly managed. For example, the inventory and accounting process offered through probate provides a clear opportunity for disgruntled heirs to object to an executor’s decisions or actions. Likewise, that same process, provides a faithful executor a court order confirming the legitimacy of their actions and protecting them from the unjust claims of heirs who would cause problems.

Second, probate can be used to cut off creditor’s claims. When a person dies, he or she may leave debt including credit cards, unpaid utilities and medical bills. Creditors have the right to pursue the decedent’s estate, and anyone who has possession of it, in order to pay the decedent’s bills. Without proper notice to creditors, a creditor has the ability to pursue the decedent’s property for years – potentially suing the heirs months or years after they received the decedent’s assets. Probate offers a process to shorten that time period to a matter of 60 or 90 days. Further, in the event that there are disputed creditor’s claims, probate offers a clear forum to resolve the disputed bill.

Finally, probate may be necessary because a decedent passes away leaving property titled in his or her name alone. Depending on the total value of assets left in the decedent’s name, probate may be necessary to transfer ownership of the asset to the person who inherits it from the decedent. For example, a probate court order will be required to transfer ownership, sell or refinance any real property owned in the decedent’s name alone.

Probate is not necessarily something to be feared or avoided. Rather, it may be a very effective tool for your heirs to preserve your estate. It may be necessary to gain control of an asset, cut off creditor’s claims, ensure that all the heirs are treated fairly, or ensure that the executor fulfills his or her fiduciary duties.

Cassandra Jones and Michael Millward are the attorneys of Heritage Law Group, P.C. Both are residents of Gardnerville, focusing their law practice on estate planning, business planning, and probate. They can be reached at 782-0040 or