For those who want to take care of their loved ones even after they are gone, an estate plan can be quite helpful. Proper estate planning usually contains a will.

Some may not be aware of how important a will is to the probate process, or they may not fully understand what probate is in itself. These are key aspects to learn if you desire to properly plan for the future of your beneficiaries.

Probate defined

There are several laws that govern the maintenance and distribution of estates in New York, and probate is a part of that process. In short, probate is a legal process that validates the distribution of an estate. It accounts for all assets of an estate, ensures the payment of all taxes, settles all debts with creditors, and distributes remaining assets to named beneficiaries or heirs.

When probate isn’t required

There are certain cases where a probate may not be required, or specific assets may receive exclusion from the probate process. A few of the more common assets courts may not include in a probate are:

  • Assets in a trust
  • Retirement benefits
  • Certain jointly held properties
  • Life insurance policy proceeds

Depending on the situation, there are additional assets that may not be in a probate. A knowledgeable attorney can help to identify such items in your estate.

Why a will is important

The will is a strong determining factor in how the courts designate the distribution of an estate during probate. If a will is in place, the executor submits the will to the court, which then determines whether it is valid and considers any challenges to it. If deemed valid, the process moves forward, and the executor and court work in conjunction to settle the estate.

Without a valid will, the court makes all designations about an estate. As you can see, a legitimate will is therefore essential to a proper estate plan. Without one, it will be up to an impartial court to determine how to settle your affairs.

Take some time to review or create your estate plan to ensure the proper execution of your desires once you are gone.