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But I have a will!
Even if you already have a will, it should be reviewed periodically and updated if necessary. Is your name and address the same since your last will? Have any of your heirs become deceased since your last will was written? Have any other conditions of your heirs changed, such as their financial condition, mental or physical health? Have your minor heirs reached the age of maturity? Are you interested in giving an additional portion of your estate to a new party, such as to a new grandchild, or to a charitable organization? Has your own financial condition changed? Has a new child been born to you, which is not included in the current will? These are just a few of the many reasons, you may want to re-read and possibly revise your will.
Can probate be avoided?
If a person dies without a trust, probate will generally be necessary. However, if the total value of real and personal property assets of the estate are less than one-hundred thousand dollars, a 'summary' probate may be possible.
Costs of probate
Probating an estate involves various costs including court filing fees, publication fees, attorneys' fees and executors' (eggs-ECK-you-ter) or administrator fees.
Creditors' claims against the estate
After your death, the person you named in your will as executor (ig-ZEHK-you-ter) -or, if you die without a will, the person appointed by a judge-files papers in the local probate court.
Do you need an attorney?
Most estates involving property or more than forty thousand dollars in assets will require a probate procedure in court before the assets can be sold or transferred to heirs.
Does a will equal probate?
Probate is simply the state court procedure required by law where the court that has jurisdiction administers your estate after your death whether or not you had a will.
Executors and administrators
If you die intestate, which means without a will, a court will choose a person called an administrator who's responsible for wrapping up your affairs.
Family allowance
A surviving spouse, children under 18, and children 18 or older who are physically or mentally incapacitated AND were financially supported by the deceased, in whole or in part, before his or her death, may be entitled to a reasonable monthly allowance from the deceased's estate for their support.
Federal estate tax
The federal estate tax is levied on the property owned by decedents (dee-CEE-dents) at the time of death. It is paid by the estate for the privilege of passing property on to recipients, who are called donees (doh-NEES).
Getting a death certificate
Death certificates may generally be obtained from the funeral home. They may also be obtained from the county in which the death occurred at the Recorder's Office.
How to object to estate action
If you are an heir or beneficiary to an estate which is being probated in court, you will receive notice of the commencement of a probate action. These notices are required by law to be sent to heirs and beneficiaries and certain other affected persons.
Not enough insurance
When it comes to life insurance, most individuals are underinsured. However, there are many reasons why life insurance is a worthwhile expenditure. Life insurance is a low-cost way you can build the wealth of your estate.
Paying debts and taxes
A probate action always includes a procedure for satisfying the debts and paying the taxes of a deceased person. The debt procedure usually means that a notice must be sent to all known creditors advising them to file probate actions.
Power of attorney
Power of attorney is a written document signed by a person giving another person the power to conduct the signer's business, including signing papers, checks, title documents, or contracts; handling bank accounts; and administering other activities in the name of the person granting the power.
Rights of the surviving spouse
A surviving spouse has many rights under the probate law. In many cases, the spouse can avoid probate completely. Property that was held by the spouse and the deceased in joint tenancy or as community property will not require a full probate proceeding.
Selling property
Generally, real and personal property can either be sold within a probate action by the executor or administrator, or be sold after the probate action by the heirs.
Too much insurance
Few people can afford to be without at least some life insurance, but there are some situations where you could do without it altogether. Couples who own their own home free and clear, and whose children have left the nest for good, and who also receive enough income from investments to live well financially, might want to consider dropping their insurance, or not take out a policy at all.
What if I am widowed?
If you're a widow, you have special needs, especially if your spouse was the sole income-earner and kept all the books and records regarding the estate.
What is an estate?
Generally, your estate is all of the property that you own. Estate planning allows you to continue to prosper when you're alive, and pass your property to your loved ones with a minimum of fuss and expense after you die.
What is probate?
When a person dies, his or her property can be distributed in one of three ways: by will, by living trust, or by state law governing the distribution of property when there's no will or trust.
What to do after a death occurs
After death occurs, it's important to determine what assets are in existence and where they're located. It's also important to determine whether the deceased left a will or trust.
When do heirs receive the assets?
If an estate goes to probate, which is a court proceeding to validate a will and determine the distribution of assets in accordance with it, heirs (airs) may have to wait a year or more to receive assets.

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