Probate assets require an appropriate court to intervene before your beneficiaries receive your assets. The court must determine that the document offered as your will is, in fact, your valid last will and must supervise the process of settling your estate in accordance with your will. If you do not have a will, the court must appoint an administrator to settle your estate and then must supervise the process in accordance with state statutes.
The appropriate court is usually the probate court for the district in which you are domiciled at the time of your death. If you are domiciled in Connecticut at the time of your death and own real estate in another state, ancillary probate will probably be needed in the other state in addition to primary probate in Connecticut for your other assets. The probate court's functions include the following:
- Supervision of the actions of your executor or the administrator it has appointed,
- Ruling on the legitimacy of contested creditors' claims against your estate,
- In Connecticut, acting as an administrative arm for the succession tax and ruling on various disputed issues involving the Connecticut succession and estate taxes,
- Supervising the transfer of your net property to the beneficiaries named in your will or, in the absence of a will, to the beneficiaries specified in the intestate statutes, and
- Oversight of distributions to minors through guardianships until minors reach their majority.
The probate process can be simple and expedient if you have under $40,000 of probate assets and your funeral bill and creditors are paid. If your estate exceeds that amount, or if your estate is under $40,000 but includes real estate, Connecticut law allows your creditors a minimum of five months to present their claims. Estates that do not exceed the applicable exemption amount are not usually required to file federal estate tax returns unless applicable exemption amounts were reduced by large lifetime gifts. If no federal estate tax return is required, estates are often settled within one year. Estates requiring federal estate tax returns are likely to take more than a year to settle.