A lot of people aren’t sure if they really have enough valuable assets to worry about estate planning, or if probate will be a concern for their estate.
But estate planning isn’t just for those with large estates.
Everyone should have at least a will as part of their estate plan because everyone owns something. It might be a car, a house, a retirement fund, or a bank account, but people typically have at least something valuable to leave behind.
So is probate a concern for only those with large estates? Absolutely not!
What is Probate?
When you hear the word “probate” you might feel a bit fearful. After all, haven’t you heard horror stories about people whose inheritance was tied up for years in probate? True, it can happen, but let’s talk about what probate is exactly.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary has the simplest definition of probate:
Probate is the action or process of proving that a document registered as a last will and testament of a deceased person is genuine. This is proven by state requirements for signatures, witnesses and/or notaries and an inventory of the deceased person’s property.
Once the property has been appraised and any debts or taxes paid, the remaining assets are distributed according to the will. If there is no will, then a person’s assets are distributed according to state law. Pretty straightforward, right?
Most of the time the probate process only becomes a real issue if the deceased person did not have the correct legal documents clearly in place to distribute their possessions and assets.
Related: Estate Planning in Virginia
Is Probate a Concern Only for Those With Large Estates?
In Virginia, going through the probate process isn’t necessary unless the estate is worth $50,000 or less.
But most people own more than $50,000 in assets.
Count up the items you own: house, car, bank accounts, retirement accounts, belongings, jewelry, etc. They all hold value, and when combined, they likely add up to more than $50,000. They’ll be distributed somehow after your death and will need to go through the probate process
In large estates, FindLaw states,
“The only way to legally transfer assets in accordance with the will is through the probate process.”
This means that even if you have a relatively small estate, your will still needs to go through the probate process to be verified. But if the paperwork is in order, the process should not present a concern.
An Estate Planning Attorney is Essential
Since probate is a concern for everyone and not only for those with large estates, it’s important to use an estate planning attorney when determining how you will distribute your property after you die.
Here at The Law Office of Joshua E. Hummer, we’ll sit with you and go through the assets you own. Your estate is probably worth more than you think!
Then we’ll help you determine the legal documents you need to plan your estate in a way that will care for the people closest to you, distribute your finances the way you want, and help your Executor navigate the probate process.