Friday, January 10, 2014

Derby Cars & Guns: A Facebook Lesson on the Basics of Probate

Have you seen it?  The Facebook photo that says something along the lines of my biggest fear is one day I will die and my wife will sell my guns (or derby cars) for what I said I paid for them! Emphasis being placed on said I paid for them.  Underlying the language is the fact that Facebook user has not been truthful in what was really paid for the items, and you can assume it was more than what was reported to the spouse. Sometimes substantially more.

Pushing beyond the joke, this Facebook post highlights a key element of the probate process.  When an individual dies his or her probate property is distributed via the probate court unless some other instrument (i.e. a living trust) had been created and funded (i.e. assets transferred to the trust from the individual).  A first step in the process is to complete an inventory of all the decedent's probate property.  Things such as a house, vehicle, bank account, and tangible personal property are typical items listed.  A fee to the court (here in Wisconsin it is 0.2 percent) is paid based on the total inventory value.  For those obscure items in your possession at your death, it may not benefit you in the long run to down play the true value.  How will your heirs know what to list if what you initially told them was an understatement?  Something to think about as we head into the weekend.

Takeaway -- one way or another, leave an accurate record for your loved ones to know what you paid for those derby cars, guns, hummels, or antique cookie jars! Thanks for reading, and remember a blog is not legal advice. Please consult an attorney in your state for advice specific to your situation.

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