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What Does It Mean to Probate a Will? by Abigail Denbeaux Kahl, Esq.

October 19th, 2017 by

What Does It Mean to Probate a Will?

by Abigail Denbeaux Kahl, Esq.

People think that probating a Will is a massive, expensive and unnecessary undertaking that simply adds stress in a time of grief and anxiety. However, in most cases, the probate process is neither terribly complicated nor terribly expensive, and an experienced estate planning attorney can help you through every step.

Essentially, the probate process is legally proving the validity of the Will and officially appointing the executor named in the Will. And, going through the process streamlines and simplifies the task of acting on the deceased’s wishes for their estate.

Here are some things to keep in mind. First, not every Will needs to be probated. Probate is only necessary if the decedent owned assets in his name alone or in joint names with another person other then a spouse. Often, for example, when the first spouse dies, there is no need to probate a Will because all assets were held jointly.

If probate is necessary, the process begins by presenting the original Will, a certified copy of the death certificate, and a list of names and addresses of the closest next of kin to the County Surrogate where the decedent lived at the time of death.

The Surrogate then reviews the Will and determines whether all legal requirements are satisfied. If the Will is self-proving, as most are, the Will can be admitted without any additional proofs being required. Assuming that the Will is sufficient and no issue is raised, certificates are prepared by the court and signed by the executor. These certificates allow the executor to take all action that the deceased could have taken, such as change or close bank accounts, transfer assets, etc.

The next step is for the executor is to take an inventory of the estate. In the case of smaller estates, this can be a fairly informal process. Depending on the situation, particularly if there are multiple beneficiaries, this may require appraisals to be done of larger items, such as real estate.
Once the executor has the certificates, he or she generally has the following responsibilities: 1) to collect the estate’s assets and information; 2) to determine any claims against the estate; 3) to manage the estate; and 4) to pay the estate’s taxes.

One important note: while the executor is responsible for paying claims of the estate, it is very important to remember that the executor also has the right to dispute any claims. I highly recommend that efforts be made to negotiate bills that come in.

An experienced estate planning attorney can help with all of the above. Although the process explained above is not incredibly complicated, many people find it helpful to have an expert to turn to who can help explain the process and take on all tasks which may otherwise seem overwhelming. If you have any questions or would like to discuss this process, please feel free to call me.

Predictor of High Net Worth Begins With the Home

October 3rd, 2017 by

Latest federal Survey of Consumer Finances shows factors associated with higher net worth

The 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) is the most recent survey conducted by the Federal Reserve.  You can use the link to the bulletin article, historical bulletin tables, full public dataset, extract dataset, replicate weight files, and documentation.

Full Article: Minorities and Americans without college degrees showed greatest gains in wealth since 2013, new data shows. [Washington Post 9/27/17]

Full Article: The one surefire way to grow your wealth in the U.S. [Washington Post 9/28/17]

Excerpts:

Data shows that minorities and Americans without college degrees showed the greatest gains in wealth since 2013, according to a new federal government report. However, that is not the full story:

“White households had a head start in rebuilding wealth relative to black and Hispanic households,” said Valerie Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s program on race, ethnicity and the economy. “Black and Hispanic households see larger percentage gains simply because they were starting from a lower level.”

  • People with college degrees have a median net worth of $292,100, over four times as much as those without bachelor’s degrees.
  • Their wealth increased by only 2 percent over the past three years, but those households were already far ahead of people without higher-education degrees.
  • The wealthiest and best-educated families continued to pull away from everyone else.
  • The share of U.S. income held by the top 1 percent of households reached 24 percent in 2016, a record high, and the median net worth of white households, at $171,000, was nearly 10 times larger than for black households.
  • Black and Hispanic families are making more money but they still lag far behind whites.
  • More than 70 percent of white families own their homes, compared with less than half of black and Hispanic families. Among homeowners, white families hold higher levels of equity in their homes.
  • Sixty percent of white families reported having retirement savings, double the rate of black and Hispanic families. White families are also twice as likely to own a business.

The Survey of Consumer Finances, published every three years, is considered a strong barometer of Americans’ household wealth because it queries more than 6,200 households about a wide array of assets, including salary, stock portfolios, and home and car ownership.

For the first time since the crisis, a majority of Americans have money in the stock market, the Fed reported. The tally includes all investments in stock, whether through a pension, a 401(k) retirement plan or a brokerage account.

  • Household wealth for African American and Hispanic families and Americans without college degrees or high school diplomas rose the fastest of all groups from 2013 to 2016, according to the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances, which surveys more than 6,000 households about their pay, debt and other finances.
  • Black households went from $13,600 in net worth in 2013 to $17,600 in 2016, a gain of almost 30 percent. Hispanic households went from $14,200 to $20,700 over the same time frame, a 46 percent increase, the Fed reported.

Net worth includes all the assets a family has: homes, vehicles, savings accounts, retirement funds, and other stock and bond funds.

“White households had a head start in rebuilding wealth relative to black and Hispanic households,” said Valerie Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s program on race, ethnicity and the economy. “Black and Hispanic households see larger percentage gains simply because they were starting from a lower level.”

Among the factors that contribute to disparities in net worth: home ownership rates, retirement savings and student debt.