Probate is the legal process of administering a person’s estate after their death. Your estate must pass through probate regardless of whether or not you have a Last Will and Testament. If you have a Will, a judge will review your Will to ensure that it is valid and properly executed. Then your executor will administer the estate according to the instructions in your Will. This includes who will have custody of and care for your children, paying any applicable estate taxes, and distributing your assets. A probate lawyer can help the executor administer your estate.
If you die without a Will, the probate court will follow Nevada laws of intestacy to distribute your assets.
Defining Estate Law Terms
There are several common words used in the probate process, and it is helpful to understand what they mean.
- Decedent - the person who died
- Estate - the decedent’s property
- Testate - the decedent died with a Will
- Intestate - the decedent died without a Will
- Heirs - the people who receive property when a person dies without a Will
- Beneficiaries - the people who are designated to receive property in a person’s Will
- Executor - the person named in the Will to manage the estate and oversee distribution of the estate
- Administrator - the person who is appointed to oversee an estate when the decedent died without a Will
What to Expect in Nevada Probate Court
Probate involves the following steps:
- Appointing an executor or administrator to handle probate
- Taking an inventory of the decedent’s property
- Notifying beneficiaries, heirs, and creditors
- Filing inventory and account
- Paying debts and taxes
- Transferring title of the decedent’s property
- Filing court documents to close the estate
If a person dies with a Will, the person named in the Will as the Executor will open an estate with the probate court and “prove” the Will. To “prove” the Will, the probate court will review the Will to ensure that it is legally valid.
A Will could be found to be invalid if it was not signed, not witnessed, if there was another Will that was made later, or if the Will was signed under duress or undue influence. Someone can challenge a Will if they believe the testator was pressured to sign the Will, did not understand the true nature of the document they were signing, or if the person making the Will was not of sound mind.
Once the probate court is assured that the Will is valid, the court will issue Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration. These documents formally give the Executor the legal authority to take steps to administer the estate.
The executor will notify interested parties that the Will has been submitted to probate. Notices will be sent to beneficiaries named in the Will, relatives who would inherit if the Will was not valid, and creditors that may have a claim to estate assets.
The executor will then take an inventory of the estate assets, pay any outstanding debts and taxes, and with the court’s approval distribute the estate according to the Will.
Nevada Simplifies Probate for Small Estates
Nevada has a simplified process for smaller estates.
If the gross value of the estate is less than $300,000, the executor can apply for a Summary Administration of Estates.
If the value of the estate is less than $100,000, under Nevada law the court must set aside the estate for the decedent’s spouse and minor children, without making payments to creditors.
For estates that are valued at less than $25,000 (not including the value of any vehicles) and do not include real property, Nevada has a simplified process known as an Affidavit of Entitlement. This simplified process is also available for surviving spouses of decedents whose estates do not include real property and are less than $100,000.
Can I Avoid Probate?
Probate is a court-supervised process of transferring assets from someone who died to their heirs and beneficiaries. Anytime someone dies, their estate must go through probate, but not all assets are subject to it. Assets can pass outside of probate if they are:
- Designated transfer on death
- Payable upon death
- Owned with a right of survivorship
- Transferred to a trust
How Much Does Probate Cost?
The cost of probating an estate can be high. Probate expenses include court filing fees, accounting fees, and administrative fees. Legal fees are set by statute and vary based on the nature of the estate, the kinds of assets in the estate, and whether or not the Will is contested.
What Nevada Court Should I Use?
To determine where to probate an estate, answer the following questions:
- Where did the decedent live?
- Where did the decedent die?
- Did the decedent own property in Nevada at the time of death?
If the answer to any of these questions is Yes, then Nevada courts have jurisdiction. However, Nevada probate courts only have jurisdiction over real property that is located in Nevada. If the decedent owned real property in another state, that state’s laws determine how the real property owned in that state will be distributed through ancillary probate.
Do I Need a Nevada Probate Lawyer?
If someone you love recently passed away, you may find yourself having been named as an estate Executor, or you may have questions about what to do next.
An experienced Nevada probate lawyer can answer your questions and guide you through the process of estate administration.
Nevada probate attorney Natalia Vander Laan can answer your questions and help you with estate administration and probate. With offices in Minden and Carson City, Vander Laan Law Firm proudly serves people throughout the Carson Valley. Learn more about attorney Natalia Vander Laan, get answers to Frequently Asked Questions, and contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation.