November 17, 2014:  Why I Do What I Do


January 28, 2015: Probate Terms in Plain English

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From time to time, I'll share my thoughts, experiences and information that may be of use to you.  I'll try to entertain and inform, and at the very least not bore you    

By LeeAnne, Jan 28 2015 02:53PM

During the probate process you will likely hear phrases that may not make much sense. If this sounds confusing you’re not alone. “Legalese” is a language all its own. Below are some common terms defined in a way that should help with the confusion. It is important that you understand what is going on. Please keep in mind that this is not legal advise, just information. Every situation is different, each state has distinct laws, and procedure can vary from court to court.

Admit: To have a document accepted by the court.

Asset Distribution: When an estate is divided among the heirs.

Beneficiary: Anyone or anything (such as a charity) inheriting or receiving property under a will or trust.

Bond: A bond may be required by a probate court when a person dies intestate, or if their will does not waive the requirement of a bond. The purpose of a bond is to protect the value of an estate until it is properly distributed to the heirs.

Deal with Creditors: The executor pays debts of the estate/deceased person from the assets of the estate.

Estate: What a person owns, which includes everything from houses, cars, clothes, furniture, bank accounts, to pots and pans.

Executor/Administrator: Usually the person named in the will by the deceased person to carry out their instructions. This person has the difficult job of taking care of the estate. When there is no will, a person will be appointed by the court to serve as administrator.

File: Submit a document to the court, for example, “File the application and will with the probate court”.

Guardian ad Litem: A person appointed by the court to represent a minor or other incompetent person in a legal proceeding.

Heirs (pronounced “airs”): People legally entitled to inherit from an estate if a person died without a will; also refers to those inheriting under a will.

Intestate: When a person passes away without a will.

Letters of Administration: Permission letters from the court allowing the executor/administrator to carry out their duties for the estate.

Motion: A document that makes a request to the court.

Personal property: property owned by a person that is moveable (clothes, furniture, cars, electronics, etc).

Probate: The procedural process that of validating a will in court so that the instructions contained in the will can be followed.

Real property: Land, real estate

Testamentary Trust: A trust that is written into a will that only becomes effective after the will is probated.

Trust: A legal entity created by a document that holds property by one person (trustee) for the benefit of another (beneficiary).

Will: a legal document that details what a person wants to happen to their stuff after they pass away signed by that person, notarized and witnessed by two others

Wind up Business affairs: The process of closing a business, or determining how the business will continue without the deceased person. This is largely based on what type of business it is, how the business was set up, and what is written in the governing documents of the business.

If you have questions, please contact a local attorney. Again, this is not legal advise, simply information.

By LeeAnne, Nov 17 2014 06:55PM

That's what my son Elijah asked me the other day. Elijah is 11 and full of constant questions. We were cleaning up the house the other day, talking about random things and he asked, "Hey Mom, why do you like working with dead things?"

I wrinkled my forehead in an attempt to figure out what he was talking about. When I turned to look at him his nose was smushed like he smelled something funky. "You know, like wills and dead people", he explained.

To him, and maybe to most people, working in estate planning and probate may seem like dead things. For me though, I like to work with people to help them make decisions about life, health care, finances, and family matters. I told Elijah that its about choices, and sometimes the consequence of not making choices. A lot of times in life we have limited options: Do you want this or that? Here or there? Yes or no?

With wills and trusts, the options are as open as you want them to be, within legal bounds. Obviously a person can't leave their estate to create a meth lab or other illegal activity. But want to leave money to a cat shelter? Awesome! Give a gift to a kind neighbor? Sounds great! Let a relative live in your house so long as they need or want to? You can do that. Have concerns about how someone might handle a financial windfall? Set up a trust and let a professional take care of the money under your directions. Is there a special needs person in your life? Create a trust for them so that they can be cared for with your guidance. Do you own a business that you have poured your heart and soul into? Make a plan so that the business can continue successfully when you are not there.

But even more than that, I am part of the healing process for a grieving family. A lot of times someones death, whether expected or not, leaves a family in a state of shock and confusion. I am honored that a person lets me help them put the pieces of their life in some sort of order, to work out the details and be a guide during a difficult time. The probate process can be challenging and complex. I can't heal the broken heart, but I can help in other ways. That is a big part of why I enjoy my work.

Like I told Elijah, its all about choices and healing.

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