With the loss of a family member, there's grief and loneliness. After mourning the deceased, the unity and peace of mind among the family members and relatives may get disrupted if they cannot agree who’s to inherit what.
If you've been named an executor of his/her estate, you might be wondering how to distribute the assets. And then, what happens to the debts owed by the deceased?
What’s a Probate?
Probate is the court order that gives the executor the right to transfer property upon a person’s death and per the terms of the will.
Is a Probate Always Necessary?
Where possible, the property can be distributed to the new owners without having to go through the entire probate process. However, granting the beneficiaries their entitlement is not always a straightforward affair and may necessitate legal process.
Probate may not be necessary where the deceased estate is small, features no real estate or where all the assets are jointly owned.
The Probate Process
Today, the administration of probate is a court-supervised process that oversees the transfer of the deceased property. Usually, the property subject to the probate process is that which a person owned solely at death.
The probate process can either be contested or uncontested. Contested probates arise due to a disgruntled family member or a relative. Following is the process involved in the administration of probate:
- An executor, named in the will or appointed by the court, files the papers with the probate court
- Proof that the will is valid and the issuance of a list of all the properties, debts and estates the deceased owned at death
- Official notification of the relatives and creditors about the death
- Location, payment of all debts, claims and state taxes, collecting all rights to incomes and dividends, settlement of disputes, and the distribution of property
Why You Need a Probate Lawyer
There’s no denying that you can go through the entire probate process without a lawyer. However, some circumstances will force you to hire one.
Imagine you're responsible for the distribution of the deceased’s property, but there's no will. You have to deal with unusual assets, which would involve lots of paperwork and court appearances. Worse still, the family members cannot seem to agree. If that describes your situation, then you need a lawyer.
The probate process requires the knowledge and application of complex laws. At the same time, you'll need to ensure that the right procedures are followed — from the time of applying the probate to the distribution of property. A lawyer knows the ins and outs of the estate planning and administration and pays attention to the details of the laws and procedures.
Where the need arises, a lawyer will help you handle the probate litigation. It doesn’t matter how close you are to the family; disputes over property are common. Such conflicts can be difficult to handle given the close-knit ties. A lawyer will use a firm yet reasonable approach to resolve the disputes arising from the disgruntled members.
Has the responsibility of the deceased’s property distribution been bestowed upon you? Where the estate is extensive, there are likely to be lots of paperwork and court appearances involved. Disputes are likely to arise, so consider hiring a probate lawyer.