Do I Need to Probate a Will if I am the Only Beneficiary?
With this, there is no “yes or no” answer. It depends on the circumstances.
As the beneficiary, you may need to probate the will in the following situations:
- There are debts unpaid by the decedent.
- The probate estate includes a bank or other financial account and the bank or financial institution will not release the funds without a probate.
- The probate estate includes a partial interest in real estate and you need clear title to the real estate.
- There is a likelihood or even possibility that someone may challenge the terms of the will now or in the future.
- The estate needs to sue another party (such as bringing a wrongful death claim) or is likely to get sued (such as litigation involving a business owned by the decedent).
- The estate is large enough to trigger an estate tax liability.
There are several alternatives to probate that can sometimes be handled without hiring a probate attorney including the following:
- Affidavit of Heirship
- Order of No Administration
- Informal Administration of Community Property
- Family Settlement Agreement
- Muniment of Title
- Small Estate Affidavit
- Heirship for a Motor Vehicle
If one of these alternatives applies to your situation, then you may be able to handle the affairs without hiring a probate attorney or by hiring an attorney on a limited scope basis.