When do you need to probate?

Our father passed away intestate a couple of months ago. He left behind about $6,000 worth of hospital bills and credit card debt. He and mom owned a joint account which had around $2,000 at the time of his death; we are in the process of transferring it to Mom’s name. He had a brokerage account with around $1,500. He had no other assets – car, home, etc. Do we need to go through the probate process and/or consult a lawyer regarding his debts? We have already sent the death certificate to his creditors. Are we running any risk by not doing anything more?

Asked on May 24, 2012 under Estate Planning, Kentucky

Answers:

Kevin Bessant / Law Office of Kevin Bessant & Associates

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

You will need to go to probate if your father passed intestate, and certain property is being challenged in terms of who it passes to, i.e. mom, children, etc. This usually involves matters of the estate of value that have not been designated in any will or trust. If nothing is being challenged by living heirs, and all financial matters and assets have been squared away, then there may be no need to probate your father's matter or consult legal counsel. While it is wise to consult an estate planning attorney to be sure all estate matters are clear, it is not a must if you feel comfortable in your efforts thus far. If you or another family member decides to become an executor of your father's estate, meaning you will be the person legally responsible for your fathers legal and financial matters as if he were still living, then yes, you will need to go to probate court to file a motion to become an executor.


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