How can I properly navigate probate?

By | May 17, 2017

When your loved one passes away, it is a sad time where family is mourning the death, celebrating the life-lived, and planning according to the deceased person’s wishes. Typically, emotions are running high and tensions can run even higher if loved ones perceive they are being treated unfairly after the death.

What is probate?

Probate is a legal process that occurs when someone passes away –  essentially it is the sorting out of the deceased’s estate and assets. The process includes: proving the validity of the will in court, taking inventory of the deceased’s property and having it appraised, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining property as the will states. It is a large responsibility for the designated executor that involves confusing paperwork and typically the assistance of a lawyer.

The executor must take inventory of the assets, manage them, and decide whether to sell or keep the deceased person’s items depending on the debt they have accrued. This process takes anywhere from a few months to a year.

What is a probate dispute?

One reason for a probate dispute is that the process of probate typically consumes money from the estate property that would otherwise be split amongst the heirs, but a chunk of that goes to lawyers usually. Some people may find it smarter and more cost-effective to go through the probate process without lawyers to save money, yet the confusion and splitting of assets unfairly can cause distress and upset feelings with the people involved. The process of probate can cause stress and tension in families because it can drain the money left to the beneficiaries depending on how much debt is to be paid.

Due to the complexity of the probate process, most people prefer to contact a professional and educated probate and probate disputes lawyer to discuss options and rights when it comes to properly perusing or avoiding this process. According to West Palm Beach probate disputes lawyer, Todd A. Zuckerbrod, there are a few situations where an attorney could pacify a tough situation. First, if an estate contains a business it is extremely helpful to contact a lawyer because businesses are more difficult to divide than an estate. Businesses include an evaluation or sale of the loved one’s business as well as the management of common assets. Second, if the deceased person is in debt, it is important to get educated advice from a lawyer who knows which approach is the most effective.

Lastly, a probate lawyer can be most helpful when there is any tension regarding the will in the family. A lawyer is an educated outside perspective that can facilitate effective discussion and provide courses of action for the executor or beneficiaries. If a family member is dissatisfied with how the executor is managing the estate, they can contest the will, which will cost more money and time.

Should I avoid a probate?

In most states, there is a certain amount of property that can pass free of probate. Also, if there is a living trust in place or joint tenancy, it is not necessary to pursue the probate process. Typically, probate does not benefit the beneficiaries because the money is being taken out of the assets they would originally have pocketed and into the hands of lawyers to sort out the probate process. Another factor into probate is that if you do not have much property, you will typically be able to qualify for a simplified probate procedure and avoid the complicated probate-avoidance plan. If you are young and planning ahead, if you take the probate-avoidance approach, you might need to update your plan as life goes on which could be time consuming.  

Probate is a long and potentially grueling process, so it is recommended that when put in this situation, it is most effect to contact a lawyer for assistance. Nothing is worth arguing with your loved one over and creating uneasy feelings. It is essential to create a estate plan as early as you can in order to ease some stress off family member before getting to the probate process.

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