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A probate bond serves as a guarantee that the executor of an estate will perform his or her duties according to the wishes of the deceased. It ensures that assets left to heirs or beneficiaries will be divided according to the will written by the person who died. The probate bond typically covers the value of the estate and protects heirs against theft, errors or negligence during the distribution of assets.
Probate bonds are purchased through bond companies. The administrator of an estate must present proof to the probate court that a bond has been bought and that it is sufficient to cover assets listed in the will. Until a probate bond is obtained, no distribution of property can be started. The probate bond usually remains in effect until a judge cancels it after all assets have been divided.
If a person died without leaving a will, the probate court decides how assets in the estate are distributed using laws of the jurisdiction wherein the person died. The court also handles wills that are contested by one or more beneficiaries and determines if a will is valid. Sometimes, the probate court will appoint an administrator to handle the assets if no will exists. The appointed administrator is also required to obtain a probate bond.
Probate courts also handle guardianships when a minor child’s parent dies. An adult is named to care for the child, providing shelter, medical care and all necessities until the child reaches adulthood. If the child inherited money or property, a guardian can be appointed to oversee the minor’s estate. The guardian is required to buy a probate bond and provide financial reports to the court to show how the assets are being managed.
Another type of guardianship covers financial management for a person who is deemed incompetent. If a person is not mentally or physically able to manage his or her finances, a guardian might be appointed by the probate court to take over. This commonly happens when dementia, brain injuries or a similar condition results in the inability to make financial decisions.
In some estate proceedings, a fiduciary is named to coordinate the transfer of property and assets of the decreased. They might include stocks and bonds, vehicles, land and life insurance policies. When real estate is owned jointly with the right of survivorship, it is commonly excluded from the fiduciary’s duties. An estate tax is usually levied on the value of the estate, which is paid from the assets.