Probate is not as scary as it can sometimes sound. Understanding the basics will take a weight off your shoulders if you are executing or administering a will. Even getting a probate bond doesn’t have to be hard. Here are the basics, explained.
What Exactly Is Probate?
Probably, the word probate conjures up images of paperwork and court buildings. Yes, there is generally paperwork and trips to the courthouse involved when someone dies, but these days many states offer simplified processes. Much depends on how prepared a family is with estate plans, a will, and the naming of an executor.
Regardless, the nuts and bolts of the probate process are fairly straightforward. Simply put, as NOLO explains, probate is the legal process that takes place when someone dies. The basics include:
- proving in court that a deceased person’s will is valid (usually a routine matter)
- identifying and inventorying the deceased person’s property
- having the property appraised
- paying debts and taxes, and
- dstributing the remaining property as the will (or state law, if there’s no will) directs.
Typically, the executor appointed in the will manages these steps, adhering to the supervision and protocols of the probate court. If there is no will, the court will appoint a personal representative or administrator and use state intestate law to determine the distribution of assets. Unless the estate is complicated, the probate process commonly takes a few months to a year. Unpaid taxes, debts, conflicts among family members or contested wills are examples of what can cause complexities and delays during probate. Normally, as Nolo reminds us:
Most states allow a certain amount of property to pass free of probate or through a simplified probate procedure. In California, for example, you can pass up to $100,000 of property without probate, and there’s a simple transfer procedure for any property left to a surviving spouse.
According to NOLO in New Jersey, family members can use simplified procedures if:
The value of all of the assets left by the deceased person doesn’t exceed $20,000, and the surviving spouse or domestic partner is entitled to all of it without probate; or,
There is no surviving spouse or domestic partner and the value of all of the assets doesn’t exceed $20,000. One heir, with the written consent of the others, can file an affidavit (sworn statement) with the court and receive all the assets.
Of course, If the estate is complex, the probate process can drag on and the executor might end up with extra challenges. Art collections, for example, require special attention during estate planning.
Understanding and Obtaining Probate Bonds
To understand the important role of bonds, such as probate bonds, executor or administrator bonds, it’s first essential to understand that executors, as well as court appointed representatives and administrators, have a fiduciary obligation to the beneficiaries. As ZACKS Finance puts it:
A fiduciary must act in the estate’s best interest, not their own. In short, the fiduciary must perform in an ethical and legal manner….The executor’s personal interests cannot conflict in any way with the interests of the estate and beneficiaries.
The probate bond is designed to protect the estate and beneficiaries in the event that the executor fails to live up to his duties and obligations. The bond can give the estate’s beneficiaries peace of mind…. Sometimes the will itself will require the executor to post a bond. The probate court may also order the executor to post bond.
Colonial Surety Company understands that if you are in probate court, you need to obtain the bond the judge requests quickly. That’s why we offer a direct, instant and digital way to obtain probate bonds, which are also referred to as administrator, executor, estate or personal representative bonds. At Colonial, the steps to obtaining all of these fiduciary bonds are easy—get a quote online, fill out your information, and enter your payment method. Print or e-file the bond right from your home or office—even while at court. It’s that simple.
Probate Law? Partner Up
Still doing the hokey pokey every time clients need court bonds? Colonial’s direct, fully digital, user-friendly system reduces the time, hassle and expense typically associated with antiquated bonding processes.
In addition to providing bonds directly to the general public, Colonial offers The Partnership Account® for Attorneys. This free business service provides user-friendly client management dashboards, enabling attorneys to easily coordinate, view, complete and e-file the court and fiduciary bonds clients need. Increase your efficiency—and lower costs for clients. See for yourself today: The Partnership Account® for Attorneys.
Founded in 1930, Colonial Surety Company is a direct writer of surety bonds and insurance products. Colonial is rated “A Excellent” by A.M. Best Company, U.S. Treasury listed, and licensed for business everywhere in the USA.