When you ask people if they have an estate plan, they often reply, “Oh, I don’t have enough assets or valuable possessions to worry about that.” 

But to put it frankly, they’re wrong.

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 or a bank account, but there is something of worth 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. 

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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 subject to distribution per 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: Probate in Virginia: Administration of Estates  

Is Probate a Concern Only for Those With Large Estates?

According to FindLaw, “Being small can have its advantages when it comes to probate. Most states recognize the complexity of this legal process is unnecessary for transferring a modest estate….when valued below a state-determined amount.”

In Virginia, an executor is not required if the estate is valued at the threshold of $50,000 or less, in which a short estate proceeding may suffice.

However, 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 have worth and need to be distributed somewhere after your death.

In large estates, FindLaw states,

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“The only way to legally transfer assets in accordance with the will is 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.” For everyone else, the will still needs to go through the probate process to be verified. If the paperwork is in order, the process should not present a concern for anyone, and not only for those with large estates.

RelatedLiving Probate: Validating Your Will While You’re Still Alive   

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.

The attorneys at The Law Office of Joshua E. Hummer will sit with you and go through the assets you own. You’re probably worth more than you think you are! Then we’ll help you determine the right legal documents you need to carry out your wishes for those who you want to inherit your possessions, as well as elect a guardian for the care of any minor children you may have. We have several estate planning vehicles we can help you to create, including the formation of trusts and the drawing up of a valid will.

With the correct legal documents, probate will most likely not be a concern. Contact The Law Office of Joshua E. Hummer today to set your consultation appointment. We’ll be glad to answer your questions and provide you with the necessary estate planning legal documents, so you can protect your assets and your family. Contact us today.