Application for “Probate” – Part I

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-estate-planning-attorney-law-office-wills-services-trusts-probate-image42426556At its simplest, “Probate” involves a Court Order appointing someone as the “Executor” (now called an “Estate Trustee”) of an Estate. Usually the Applicant is named in a Will, but if there is no Will, then the Applicant may be any person not disqualified under current jurisprudence. The objective of the appointment of an Executor (again, now, the Estate Trustee) is to carry out the wishes of the Deceased under his Will if he had one and to administer the Estate and its distribution.

Seems simple. But not always. The procedure for the Application is regulated under Court Rules and precision as well as completeness is mandatory. As in many other areas of Court processes, what is acceptable, however, in one Court office may not be acceptable in another.

The Application must also be accompanied by payment of the “Probate Fees”, now called “Estate Administration Tax” (“EAT”). This tax is calculated at $5 per thousand dollars of the value of the Estate up to $50,000 and $15 per thousand dollars of the value of the Estate above $50,000.

Now, the hard realities. The EAT is paid at the time of the Application by the Applicant before any of the Estate is distributed. Same for the legal fees arising from any legal assistance used to prepare and file the Application.

The Court Order may be delayed weeks or even longer for its delivery, making reimbursement of the Applicant’s payment of the EAT (and legals) relatively burdensome. Bank loans may be necessary but the Estate’s assets are not “security”, as they don’t belong to the Applicant/borrower.

Further, the Court may reject the Application or request either further information or a Court attendance – more time and money.

All of these issues (and most importantly, the amount of the EAT) are strong incentives for early planning, the use of effective Wills and, as much as possible, elimination or reduction of the value of the Estate that requires Probate before it occurs (and here it is worth pointing out that not all Estates require Probate).

There are several techniques available to legal counsel in estate planning. We would be pleased to share some of these with you.

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