The word probate is one of the most commonly recognized legal terms. Usually, it has a negative connotation. This is because it can be a long, complicated process. Even an experienced attorney will advise that it is best to avoid probate hearings. Though this may be true, probate plays an important role in estate law. In general, you should understand the basics of the probate court as part of your estate planning.
Demystifying the Probate Process
Probate is an often heard term that most people fail to understand. Overall, the probate process handles the assets and debts of a decedent in a fair, organized manner. A local court manages the entire process. It should come as no surprise that the names of these courts often contain the word probate. This court is the legal authority that handles each facet of estate administration. It should also be well understood that a probate court is a civil court. A probate lawyer can explain how your local probate court functions.
A Special Type of Court
Probate courts do a lot more than just administer wills. The court will first appoint someone to act as the executor of the estate. Then, the court will determine the value of the estate, as well as identify assets. The probate court will also pay any pending taxes and debts. Finally, the court distributes the estate's assets to the appropriate heirs. As you can see, the probate court has a lot of duties.
The probate court also has one more very important function. In the case of a will contest, the judge will determine the validity of the document. This is usually done through a special type of probate hearing. In Utah, the contest begins with a formal testacy proceeding per Section 75-3-401 of the Utah Code
. This type of procedure is complex in nature. Thus, it is best handled by an estate lawyer.
Probate Isn't All Bad
Although it is best to plan to avoid probate, the process is not without its merits. Probate is a great solution for intestate estates of small value. The structured system helps the heirs divide the assets in an organized manner. It also helps those that don't have the money to create an estate plan during their lives. In this situation, the assets of the estate pay the administration costs. Finally, it can result in a greater amount of debt forgiveness. Creditors have a shorter time to file a claim with the probate court than with other methods. This is a huge benefit to estates that have a large amount of looming debt. In the end, probate does a great job of serving certain segments of the population.
For help with estate law issues in Utah, contact Spencer and Jensen PLLC. An estate lawyer can help you with death certificates, probate hearings and end of life law.