Essential to the life of any given man is the desire to survive. Important to survival are three basic necessities; one Abraham Maslow described as man’s physiological needs namely food, cloth and shelter. The irony about life, survival and the quest for self-preservation however is that man lose his health seeking the means for survival; use the product of such labour to recuperate its health, live like it will never die, and die having never really lived. The last part of this analogy is however the scariest, one many doesn’t necessarily want to find themselves in, and a reason for which they make plans for the time of death. Among such plans visionary beings make towards death is the issue of probate on the products of their labour, how to ensure their will is executed after death, how to ensure such fruit of labour is not squandered after death, and most importantly making sure that the properties left behind serve the purposes for which it was supposed. The dead definitely knows nothing about what happen with its belongings after death, a reason for which many make decisions concerning such while still very much alive.
Probate: Meaning, Steps and Purpose
From a layman perspective, probate can simply be described as a process through which a deceased persons property is legally allocated to its purposed beneficiaries by a person approved by a competent court with jurisdiction over the decedent’s residence to act in the capacity of administrator or executor.
As easy as the idea of probate sound to hearing, it is often complicated and a very cumbersome process. The processes involved in executing probate however begins with identification of a decedent properties, its locations and current worth; all which shall be created into an inventory for submission to a competent court with jurisdiction over it. Appointing someone to act in the capacity of an executor or administration for the estates then follows. This person will then oversee such works as creating a special account in the estate name, reaching out to creditors to put forth their claims, making necessary payment for dues, loan servicing, taxes and others, receiving entitlements as well as every other earnings in the name of the decedent into the estate account; an then allocate what is left having satisfied other requirements to heirs and advisees alike.
Disbursement of properties in probate is either based on a prepared will of execution made by the deceased while alive; in the absence of which the estates are declared by a competent court as “intestate”, thereby necessitating the need for an existing state law to be used as the basis for allocating the properties to beneficiaries.
Guide to Ensuring a Hitch Free Probate after Death
In the case of declaration as intestate, the possibility of controversy over the sharing formula employed especially as among the beneficiaries cannot be underscored. In this case, it is often advised that a living property owner take some measures towards a complete eradication of unforeseen post death controversy over his/her estate.
Among the most common method through which controversies can be averted is the availability of a will which states exclusively the modality through which properties and estates left should be allocated between and among heirs and addresses. Does the availability of will now suggest that a probate will go unchallenged? Experience has shown that questions of authenticity of certain provisions in a will are often contested; especially by a heir or advisee, who in their wisdom perceived some sort of irregularities. It is against this background that a person seeking a proper and hitch free passage of probate after his/her death is advised to thread the path of will validation while still alive. To validate a will is however a function of three broad factors upon which the hearing shall be based. These however include:
Process of Will Execution: – any individual seeking to validate its will in other to avoid controversy after death must at first convince the court that the will being sought for validation passed through the prescribed legal procedure; with not less than two witnesses, who also append their signatures as a proof of consent.
Assurance of Mental Stability: – especially in the case of an unusual allocation of properties, maybe to a good neighbour, the orphanage, or a deprivation of a legal heir due to its extravagant lifestyle among other factors; one seeking to validate such will must convince beyond reasonable doubt of its mental wellbeing. The reason for this is to ascertain a reasonable degree of consciousness of the consequences of the action such individual is about to take.
Freedom from Undue Influence: – you will agree with me that not all conscious decision taken by an individual is a product of free will. At times, such could be borne of manipulation, coercion or even threat. A court from whom a validation on will is being sought must be convinced that none of these is applicable and that the individual seeking such application is acting from an independent capacity.
If the court having considered these test for validation; deem the will valid, it will then issue a ruling as regards to it. The validated will however stays on file with the probate court; with its content made public or not based on existing state procedure.
In the effect that an individual desire to achieve same feat without the necessary hurdle of legal validation, what the person should do is avoid unnecessary surprises of property allocation that might warrant controversy and subsequently make legal battles inevitable. In addition to this, allocation of items with sentimental values should be done with utmost specificity. Some items such as your favourite car, jewellery, shoe etc; though have lesser monetary significance when compared to several other luxuries, control great emotional attachment which often than not makes it a centre of attraction and struggle. Such item must be allocated with specificity in other not to create room for controversy. In case you think your mental state might be put to question after death especially in the case of a will not validated by the court, videotaping the signing of the will might be ultimately recommended.