If a loved one has recently passed away, you may learn that the estate is entering probate court. You may not know exactly what this means or why it is happening, though. There are a number of reasons why an estate may end up in probate. Whether you are a beneficiary or not, understanding them can help you understand the process that follows so you know what to expect.
The following are three of the most common reasons why an estate may go to probate. Typically, if one of the following circumstances applies, a probate court handles the estate by assessing its value, paying any final debts and distributing the assets to beneficiaries.
1. No will or trust
The most common reason why an estate may go to probate is the absence of a will or trust. According to the AARP, 60 percent of Americans do not have an estate plan, so it is not surprising that this is a common cause of probate intervention. Even if your loved one did have a will or trust established, though, the estate may be subject to probate because the will or trust may require authentication.
2. Dispute of estate plan
In some cases, there may be an estate plan in place, but a beneficiary or another involved party contests it. If there is a dispute, a probate court will likely step in to assess the will or trust and determine what the final outcome of the estate should be. Even with a seemingly airtight plan, a dispute can land an estate in probate for an extended period of time.
3. Questionable capacity
If the decedent of the estate was of a questionable capacity at the time the estate plan was drafted, this may also be grounds for a probate court to intervene. A person's capacity may be questionable if she or he was not of sound mind at the time of drafting the will or trust, or undue influence may have been a factor during the drafting of the will or trust.