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When Do You Have to Go Through Probate?

When Do You Have to Go Through Probate

Leaving a will behind when you die is the responsible thing to do. But leaving a will, doesn’t always mean that there’s no need for probate. An estate may undergo formal probate for many reasons including when a will is contested, unclear, or invalid, or when the assets are held only in the deceased’s name. And when there’s no will, probate is often required to oversee the distribution of the deceased’s property.

As a general rule, you’ll want to avoid probate if possible. Unfortunately, there are situations where you don’t have a choice. Let’s explore those situations that determine when you have to go through probate.

When There’s A Will There’s Usually Probate

Determining if a will needs to go through probate depends on the laws of your state and the property you hold at death. Some states, such as Washington, do not require probate to be filed. Other states base the need for probate on the value of the estate. Common situation when you have to go through probate with a will include:

  • Will Contest: Disputes can arise because family members are unhappy with the deceased’s estate plan. Death can cause old family tensions to resurface causing disputes over insignificant family property. A beneficiary may contest the validity of a will’s construction. If someone who could take under the will protests the division of property, you must probate the will. All challenges are handled in probate court.
  • Value of the Estate: Smaller is better when it comes to probate. It’s common practice to allow estates falling below a predetermined value to avoid probate. In California, estates valued over $150,000, and that don’t qualify for any exemptions, must go to probate. In Oklahoma, a probate is required on an estate valued over $20,000.
  • Assets Held Only in Deceased’s Name: Probate is not just about distributing property. It also initiates the legal transfer of title to that property. If a person dies and owns real estate, regardless of value, either in his/her name alone or as a “tenant in common” with another, a probate proceeding is typically required to transfer the property. However, many states offer a quicker, less expensive probate-alternatives for transferring title to cars.

When There’s No Will You Really Need Probate

When a person dies without a will, they are said to have died “intestate”. The laws of the state where you reside will determine how your property is distributed upon your death. However, probate administration when there’s no will is similar to when there is one. When you die, your property is classified as either probate property or non-probate property.

  • Determining the Estate’s Heirs: If no Will exists, the property is divided among the person’s heirs. In California, if the person has a spouse and or children, the property first goes to them. If there is no spouse or children, the property goes to the person’s next nearest relatives. The laws of intestate succession are very state specific.
  • Transfer of Assets: When there is no will, probate is frequently required to determine the deceased owner’s probate assets, assess their value and distribute them to creditors and heirs. It’s not uncommon for property transferred under intestacy to be counter to what the deceased would have chosen if living. Probate transfer title to the heirs with the closest family relationship to the deceased. Special provisions, such as the small estate exemption, also apply to an estate without will.

Free Consultation with a Probate Lawyer

If you are here, you probably have a probate issue you need help with, call Ascent Law for your free probate consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

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About the Author

People who want a lot of Bull go to a Butcher. People who want results navigating a complex legal field go to a Lawyer that they can trust. That’s where I come in. I am Michael Anderson, an Attorney in the Salt Lake area focusing on the needs of the Average Joe wanting a better life for him and his family. I’m the Lawyer you can trust. I grew up in Utah and love it here. I am a Father to three, a Husband to one, and an Entrepreneur. I understand the feelings of joy each of those roles bring, and I understand the feeling of disappointment, fear, and regret when things go wrong. I attended the University of Utah where I received a B.A. degree in 2010 and a J.D. in 2014. I have focused my practice in Wills, Trusts, Real Estate, and Business Law. I love the thrill of helping clients secure their future, leaving a real legacy to their children. Unfortunately when problems arise with families. I also practice Family Law, with a focus on keeping relationships between the soon to be Ex’s civil for the benefit of their children and allowing both to walk away quickly with their heads held high. Before you worry too much about losing everything that you have worked for, before you permit yourself to be bullied by your soon to be ex, before you shed one more tear in silence, call me. I’m the Lawyer you can trust.