Probate and wills are important components of estate planning and inheritance processes. When someone passes away, their will outlines how their assets should be distributed among their heirs and beneficiaries.
The probate process is necessary for verifying the deceased’s will and carrying it out as closely as possible. However, it is important to understand that probate does not always follow the will’s instructions to the letter.
Probate is the legal process that ensures the settling of a deceased person’s debts and the distribution of their assets to their heirs. It involves the court’s supervision to ensure that everything proceeds correctly and fairly.
Challenges to the will
One reason why probate might not follow the will exactly is the potential for challenges to the will itself. If someone believes that the will is invalid, they can contest it in court.
Common reasons for contesting a will include:
- Claims of undue influence
- Lack of mental capacity
- Improper execution
When the court receives such challenges, it may investigate and make decisions that can alter the will’s instructions.
Debts and taxes
Before distributing assets to heirs, the probate court will settle the deceased person’s debts and taxes. If the deceased had outstanding debts or owed taxes, the estate’s assets would pay for those obligations. This process takes precedence over distributing assets according to the will. As a result, heirs might receive less than initially indicated in the will if there is a reduction of the estate’s value by these payments.
Statistics suggest that over 3 million cases go through probate every year. While many of these cases go without a hitch, families mourning the passing of a loved one should know what to expect when probate does not follow the will exactly.