In Mississippi, probate is the court-supervised process that takes place after someone dies in order to transfer ownership of assets from the deceased person to his/her heirs and to address and resolve outstanding creditor claims of the decedent’s estate. (The decedent meaning the person who has died.)
While many people think the term “estate” is only used for wealthy people, a person’s estate simply refers to all the assets, property, and possessions owned by a person. Estates can refer to multiple properties and big bank accounts, but they can also refer to a single vehicle and $100 in a checking account.
Probate is necessary if the decedent died with assets in his/her name. Probate will take place whether there is a valid will in place or not. A testate estate is one where the decedent left a will and named people and/or organizations to receive his/her assets. An intestate estate is one where there is no will.
If the decedent died without leaving a will, the first step in the probate process is filing a petition with the court to open the estate and to have a representative appointed to administer the estate. If the decedent died with a will, then the initial petition will also seek to prove that the will is valid.
Once a representative is appointed by the court, the next step is for that representative to swear an oath and possibly post a bond before the court. The bond is intended to protect the estate against frivolous actions by the estate representative. The court will grant the appointed representative the authority to execute his/her duties on behalf of the decedent’s estate.
The administrator acts as a manager of the decedent’s estate. The administrator will be responsible for taking possession of and inventorying the decedent’s assets, collecting, and paying all debts and taxes from the decedent’s estate, and distributing the assets either according to law or according to the decedent’s wishes as indicated in the decedent’s last will and testament, if applicable.
There are multiple alternatives to probate:
- For any type of bank accounts in an amount equal to or less than $125,000, the bank may, but is not required to distribute the funds to the decedent’s spouse, children, parents, or siblings, depending on proper heirship.
- A Small Estate Affidavit may be utilized for estates that equal to or less than $50,000 in value. This option will transfer the assets of the decedent, as does a probate, to the proper heirs without the need for court intervention.
- The options of Muniment of Title, an Heirship Affidavit, or Heirship Suit are also alternatives to probate. These options may be considered by a probate attorney depending on the situation; however, these options do not relieve the heirs of creditor claims.
If you have had a family member or friend pass away in Mississippi or Louisiana, it is important to get the right help to navigate this process. Feel free to call our office to set up a consultation.
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