Probate is a legal process where the financial affairs of a recently deceased person are settled. This includes determining who owns what of the deceased person’s estate and resolving any questions regarding debts that are still owed. Probate occurs in Indiana’s local county or superior courts, except in Marion County where there is a separate probate court.
Even if your loved one died with a legitimate will and final testament already in place, the probate process will still often require appearing before a judge and addressing challenging questions, which can cause stress for those involved. Having an experienced probate lawyer by your side can help make sure that the probate process concludes fairly and aligns with the wishes of your deceased loved one.
Your Probate Experience In Indiana
The objective of probate court is to fairly handle the division of a deceased person’s estate. The court can immediately give an allowance from the estate to the surviving spouse and children that are minors before setting up an administration plan that will pay debts, taxes, and then the surviving heirs. The three types of estate administration in Indiana probate courts are:
- Supervised – The court appoints an administrator who must seek court approval for the sale or distribution of any property. This is done if there is no will, if there are disputes among the survivors, or if the estate is in bankruptcy.
- Unsupervised – The personal representative who is established by the will or decision of the court does not need permission to deal with property. This is desired since it is much less costly than a supervised estate administration.
- Small Estate Situations – If the total value of the estate is less than $50,000, formal administration is not required so long as assets are transferred or sold by affidavits or written statements. Bureau of Motor Vehicle forms are required for the transfer of car titles.
Indiana has abolished inheritance tax for anyone who has died after December 31, 2012, but you still may have to pay a federal tax if the estate’s value is over the current federal exemption. At the end of 2017, the federal exemption was about $5.49 million, but this changes frequently. Among the other expenses that you may face, some would include:
- Property tax on real estate
- The final income tax of the deceased person
- Income tax on the estate’s earnings
Ways To Avoid Probate
While probate court is intended to be as easy and fast as possible, it can still take a long time, and it might be stressful for you and your family. Many families have sought to avoid probate court altogether through proper planning while the estate owner is still living.
A skilled attorney can help you and your family understand your options to avoid ever having to go to probate court after a loved one passes away. The many things that your attorney can help you do to avoid probate may include:
- Create a revocable trust – Your loved one can put their property in a revocable trust which they control for the remainder of their life, and then it’s trusteeship will pass to loved ones after the original trustee’s death without going through probate.
- Establish POD bank accounts – Payable on Death (POD) accounts transfer their control to a designated beneficiary while skipping probate.
- Put real estate under joint tenancy – Real estate owned in joint tenancy, or tenancy by the entirety, will transfer ownership to the surviving spouse or other designated persons immediately upon the death of its owner.
- Gifting assets – Many people give away some of their assets while they’re still alive so that their property never has to go through probate. Your attorney can help make sure that your generous gifts do not result in tax liabilities for you or your loved ones.
A Probate Lawyer From Hessler Law Can Help You
The death of a loved one can be very stressful and traumatic for a family, and it’s easy for anyone to be overwhelmed. Probate court is meant to address the distribution of a person’s assets in a fair and timely manner after their death. If you will be seeking your inheritance through probate court, it’s essential to have a skilled Indiana probate lawyer working for you. Additionally, an experienced criminal defense lawyer at Hessler Law can help your family plan to avoid probate by taking certain steps while your loved one is still alive.