Primarily through misunderstanding, many through the years, have come to believe that the probate process is a bad thing. It is believed the process is designed to be a costly event for all involved, and that it may prevent us from receiving what we feel is rightfully due us.
We would like to provide you with some basic information about the probate process, and what probate is intended to provide to the families and individuals who have a need to participate in the process. Let’s begin with some facts about probate you need to be aware of.
YOU DO NOT WANT TO AVOID PROBATE IN CONNECTICUT
In Connecticut, you do not want to avoid probate, because the courts give assistance and advice on how you should proceed based upon the circumstances. Probably the most important thing to understand is that there are no probate court fees to avoid, because fees to the state are exactly the same regardless of how an asset is held.
You should also be aware of the fact that jointly owned assets, trust properties, and assets with named beneficiaries do not have to be probated to change title to the survivor. But they do have to be declared on the State Commissioner of Revenue Services Document. This is submitted through the probate court, but must be filed even if there are no assets to be probated. Failure to do so can be costly.
NOT SEEKING ADVICE IMMEDIATELY AS RELATES TO PROBATE
Not seeking advice immediately as relates to probate can result in problems. One of the best examples of this may be one you have experienced already, or may know of someone to whom this may have occurred.
Example – We all know of cases where family members, after losing a loved one, feel they can access a home and take what personal effects they want. Things like furnishings, household items and photo albums. This often can result in emotional turmoil for a family. Even worse, this could make the probate process much more complicated and drawn out, which could prove to be costly to everyone.
If there is a will that names an Executor, that person DOES NOT have legal authority to deal with the assets until the will is submitted to probate and the Executor appointed, except to take such steps as may be necessary to protect the estate assets.
KEEPING OTHERS (ESPECIALLY SIBLINGS) INFORMED
Remember, being appointed as an executor or administrator (if there is no will) is often a thankless, time-consuming and confusing task; however, it does often result in others feeling shut out of the process. Keeping others (especially siblings) informed and involved in decision making will lessen tensions and preserve family relationships. HOWEVER, DO NOT let others (ex. Spouses, etc.) get involved in opinions or decisions, because this always adds fuel to the animosity fire.
SHOW RESPECT AND CONFIDENCE IN THE ABILITIES OF THE SURVIVING SPOUSE, EVEN IF ELDERLY OR FRAIL
If you are serving as executor, always show respect and confidence in the abilities of a surviving spouse, even if elderly or frail. Too often the elderly are treated as if their feelings or opinions no longer matter – their children know what is best! Only by showing them that they are still important, will they regain the confidence needed to live out the remainder of their lives.
FILING RETURNS ON TIME
Another very important area of concern is the filing of taxes. There are many facets to this process, including, but not limited to, filing on time and possible negative tax consequences. Various tax penalties and interest charged can result in the loss of $100’s, if not $1000’s of dollars when returns are not filed properly, and on time. Be aware that some tax reports have to be filed within six months of the deceased passing. Sometimes however, there are exceptions made, resulting in penalties and interest charges being waived.
Attorneys are very helpful with probate issues, but if you refer to our link on this website titled Believing That an Attorney Can Take Care of Everything, you will discover that some areas, such as the proper filing of claims, may be a topic best handled by another professional. This is very important, as the improper filing of some claims can prove to be very costly.
What should be most evident to you from this basic information is that if you do not have someone who is qualified to help with the entire probate process, you should seek the advice of a professional. (Refer to our link on this website titled Relying Solely on the Advice of a Relative or Close Friend.)
ASSIGN A COORDINATOR WITHIN YOUR PROFESSIONAL TEAM
Often times, as financial advisors, we act as the coordinator among other professionals you may be working with, such as your attorney and accountant. Someone has to make sure everyone is on the same page when putting together a strategy on your behalf.
Please feel free to contact us at any time. We will respond with a phone call at your request, and discuss with you the issues you would like to know about. If necessary, we can set up a time to meet in person to provide you with a consultation, which we have agreed with your funeral director to do at no cost to you.
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Commonwealth Financial Network® does not provide legal or tax advice. You should consult a legal or tax professional regarding your individual situation.