The probate process is a complicated process that must be endured during a very difficult time in your life. Probate can become necessary whenever someone has passed away. This leaves family members coping with complex legal issues, as well as dealing with a torrent of grief that results from a death.
The probate process is not only difficult for family members, but it actually imposes substantial legal obligations on the person who the deceased named as executor of a will. Those who are involved in the probate process, including the executor of an estate as well as heirs or beneficiaries, must ensure they understand what is expected and know how the process works. Hiring a lawyer is helpful, and Nehoray and Drake, LLP is here to provide assistance. Give us a call to get personalized help with probate and to get answers to questions you have about the probate process including:
- What is the probate process?
- Who should get legal help during the probate process?
- How can a probate lawyer provide help?
What is the Probate Process?
The probate process is the process by which assets must transfer after a death, unless other plans have been made to facilitate the change in property ownership. Assets held in a trust, pay-on-death accounts, jointly titled assets, and certain other property can transfer outside of probate. Most wealth must transfer within the probate process.
The probate process involves court proceedings in the county where the deceased owned property. It is possible that probate could be required in multiple counties if the deceased owned property in different locations and did not make plans for probate avoidance. The executor of an estate is responsible for filing probate forms with the correct court(s) in the county where the property is owned.
The deceased names an executor of an estate in the will, but the court must officially appoint the executor. If there is no will or the executor doesn’t want the job, the court will appoint a personal representative or estate administrator instead of an executor. The executor of an estate or personal administration is going to be in charge of myriad complicated tasks during the probate process, from taking care of tax issues to notifying creditors and heirs or beneficiaries of probate proceedings to caring for the property of the deceased.
Once the probate process is underway, creditors have a chance to make claims on the estate to ask for the repayment of funds owed to them. If there is a will, its validity has to be determined so the probate court can decide if the will is to be probated. There is a chance for the will to be contested. If there isn’t a will, intestacy law will determine asset distribution.
Who Should Get Legal Help During the Probate Process?
The executor of an estate has many important responsibilities during the probate process, most of which require extensive legal and financial knowledge.
Executors of a will must know where and how to file for probate proceedings to take place. They must understand rules for estate accounting, and must know how to file tax returns and what taxes are owed. They also have to take care of estate property and ultimately go through the process of getting deeds changed and titles changed so they can formally hand over property to new owners at the close of probate.
Executors should hire a lawyer to provide assistance during the entirety of the complex probate process. Executors could actually face a lawsuit and personal legal responsibility if their actions are found to be in violation of a so-called fiduciary duty which is imposed on them by law and which prohibits self-dealing and requires them to act in the estate’s best interest. There is no sense in an executor of an estate taking a chance on doing something wrong and leaving himself vulnerable to a lawsuit. The executor of an estate should hire an attorney as soon as he or she can.
Heirs or beneficiaries don’t necessarily have a lot of responsibility during the probate process, but it is their inheritance at stake. It is a good idea for them to hire an experienced attorney to represent their interests and oversee the probate process to watch for any signs of problems or irregularities.
Those who do not believe a will is a valid reflection of the wishes of the deceased should also have legal representation to provide assistance in contesting the will and making a strong case.
How Can a Probate Lawyer Provide Help?
Nehoray and Drake, LLP offers help to anyone involved in the probate process, from those contesting a will to executors and heirs. To find out more about the personalized assistance a probate lawyer can provide during the probate process, give us a call today.