Probate, quite simply, is the process by which the court determines the legal property of a person who has died, and decides to whom those assets will be distributed. It sounds like it should be simple, but somehow, unfortunately, probate is hardly ever simple. Even in the best of circumstances there are procedures that must be followed to the letter, and the actual process (depending on the size of the estate and the laws of the state in which the property is being probated) can take anywhere from 6 months to a few years!
A well-written and executed will can go a long way toward keeping the probate process on the short and easy end of the spectrum; but even with a will, much of your probate experience will depend on elements outside your realm of control. There are certain steps that must be followed to complete the probate process, including:
* The appointment of an executor or personal representative
* Verification of the will
* Taking an inventory of assets belonging to the deceased (which can be very difficult if good records have not been kept)
* Giving notice to creditors
* Paying valid claims against the estate
* Preparing and paying taxes
* Notifying beneficiaries (not all of whom will be easy to find)
* And eventually distributing the assets to the beneficiaries or heirs
If just reading the above takes your breath away, imagine having to organize and execute all of those steps—and possibly more! The good news is that if you find yourself serving as executor of a loved one’s will or estate, you don’t have to go through the process alone. Our office can help you navigate the tangled probate maze from beginning to end—from filing the first court documents to protecting your eventual inheritance—ensuring that your probate experience goes as quickly and smoothly as possible. Don’t hesitate to contact us and find out what your first (or next) steps should be.