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Estate Settlement Basics

Fact: The Average American does not understand the basic concept of estate planning and management to help secure the future of their family and prevent financial disaster.

What is Estate Settlement Anyway?

A person’s estate is the total collection of their financial assets including businesses, land, property, intellectual property, and the money they accumulated all put together into a summarized list, with each item having a determined value. While alive, each person can do what he or she wishes with their estate and assets, but once they are deceased, their estates are subject to stringent laws that dictate how it should be distributed and utilized.

Assets & Documentation

The first step of redistributing a deceased person’s estate is locating all official documentation relating to their assets. Depending on the deceased’s record-keeping, this can be either the easiest or most difficult step as the family and lawyers collaborate to help locate all of the documentation. Usually, probate lawyers tend to be the most helpful at this point, as they are skilled in helping make probate easier through the court process and to achieve fairness for family members.

Will vs. No Will

The biggest difference between a family struggling with their life in the weeks and months after a death in the family and a family being able to grieve in peace and with assurance is whether the deceased created a will or not. A will is a legal document that distributes the deceased’s personal property to those designated to receive a portion or all of the discovered assets. With no will however, the surviving friends and family must file a petition to the local courts in order to get what they feel they deserve.

Is Probate Necessary?

Probate is a legal process meant to help distribute the deceased’s assets to family members and others who have a claim against the estate. After the family files for probate, the court appoints an executor in order to locate and distribute the deceased’s assets. The executor must make a good faith effort to find all of the deceased’s assets, pay off his or her debts, and distribute the remainder among the deceased’s family and other beneficiaries. The probate process is considered the worst step, as it can take years to finish.

Claims Against the Deceased

Creditors can lay claims to the deceased’s assets in order to pay off any outstanding debts that the deceased person might have left behind while they were alive. Paying off debtors is often a part of the beginning steps in probate, like unpaid taxes, mortgages, and any creditors with a legitimate claim to the deceased’s assets before it is available to be distributed to the relevant beneficiaries.

Summing Up Estate Settlement

Estate settlement is a legal process in which a person’s assets are accumulated and distributed after they are deceased. While this process cannot be avoided, it can be controlled and managed in order to make the process easier for all of those involved. It is a process that can be stressful to friends and family and can drive them apart, but with help and careful planning, it can be managed smoothly so that the family can be at peace.