Actually, yes! When someone dies, the first step is to determine if the decedent owned any assets individually, meaning there were assets with no joint owner or designated beneficiary. A very common fact pattern is where a surviving spouse dies owning a house. Once it is determined that individually owned assets exist, someone needs to obtain the legal authority to manage those assets. If the decedent died with a Will, the Will must be probated. The probate process is the process of taking the Will to Court and proving to the Court that the Will is valid. Once the Court determines that the Will is valid, an Executor will be appointed who can then manage the assets of the estate.
As part of the probate process, the Court requires that each and every person who could have inherited from the decedent if the decedent has no Will must be contacted and asked to sign certain papers. This is a requirement regardless of whether the person is a named beneficiary in the decedent’s Will and in cases where the individual has been disinherited, can cause a lot of problems.
This is a good example of why simply having a Will is insufficient planning. You can avoid the above debacle by planning with a revocable trust since a revocable trust avoids probate.