The probate Process
Probate is the legal process by which the personal and real property as well as debts left behind by a deceased are dealt with. Typically, probate is supervised in a Surrogate’s Court, and must be in the same state where the decedent died. Probate laws slightly vary from state to state, and hence the need to hire knowledgeable probate lawyers.
The word “probate” can also be used to mean the court where probate is conducted, and the process of distributing the estate assets amongst beneficiaries. By default, every probate process must include the following aspects of estate administration:
- Proving the validity of a will, (if a will was actually drafted by the decedent before death);
- Appointing an estate administrator if the will didn’t appoint one, or when the will fails the validity check;
- Ascribing a total estimated value to all the assets within and out of the estate;
- Paying all estate bills and debts;
- Identifying and notifying all potential beneficiaries and family members of the deceased;
- Distribution of the assets based on the instructions of the will or by intestacy laws.
When a valid last will is absent, estate administration is done based on the intestacy laws of the state of the decedent. The law mandates that a fixed portion of the estate be giving to the spouse of the decedent, while the rest goes to the children. If the decedent died leaving no spouse or kids, the property goes to the next closest living relative.
Probate typically begins when the appointed executor files a petition to the Surrogate’s Court along with the death certificate and will of the decedent, and ends when the estate is formally closed.
Probate lawyers are professional lawyers having vast experience and expertise in providing knowledgeable probate law representation. Having years of experience in probate law and court matters, these lawyers will work with you hand in hand to achieve your estate goals.
Duties of probate lawyers
All the steps involved in a probate process depend on the probate laws of the State. The steps will also differ based on whether the decedent died leaving a valid last will and testament, testate — or he died leaving no valid last will or trust, i.e. intestate. In either situations, probate lawyers are more than capable in handling probate.
A probate lawyer may be hired by either the fiduciary or beneficiaries, or both parties, when certain matters arise during the course of probate, or when the heirs and family members do not get along well with or trust the fiduciary.
Some probate lawyers also specialize in distinct lawsuits more or less associated with probate. For example, a potential beneficiary may challenge the decedent’s last will through a will contest, suspecting the will to have been written out mischief; or they may hitherto challenge the actions of the executor/administrator. Lawyers specialized in resolving such conflicts include probate litigators, estate litigators, or estate and trust litigators.
How will probate lawyers assist Fiduciaries?
The estate administrator, executor or trustee are commonly called fiduciaries or personal representatives and have responsibilities to the estate and the beneficiaries alike. Due to how demanding these responsibilities can get, a probate lawyer may be employed to help the executor with the following:
Assets collection and valuation
The probate lawyer can assist the executor in locating, collecting and valuating all assets within and outside the estate, insurance proceeds, and make appropriate decisions with regards to retirement plans and accounts. The probate lawyer will help with all these.
The personal representative will also have to keep track of the estate checking account and pay estate debts, bills and expenses out of the account. The probate lawyer will help in verifying the claims of creditors and checking the financial powers of the executor.
Dispute often flare up between beneficiaries and fiduciaries. Specialized probate attorneys will have to step in to resolve such differences legally.
Although settling an estate do not always need highly professional hands, there are complicated estates which can give serious headaches to estate administrators. There are probate lawyers who will put all hands on deck to provide you the best services to their capacity. To get a smooth sailing probate, seek and consult a probate lawyer nearest to you today.