Helping Families Through Estate Administration
When a loved one passes away, the last thing their grieving family should be faced with is a complicated, lengthy probate process. The best way to avoid this is by developing a comprehensive estate plan, which may include a will, living trust and other legal methods that can bypass the probate process completely or minimize the court’s involvement.
The probate process has disadvantages. Your estate and the value of your assets will become public record. Also, because lawyer’s fees and executor’s commissions are based on a statutory fee schedule, a probate may cost more than the management and distribution of a comparable estate under a living trust. Time can be a factor as well. A probate proceeding generally takes a minimum of seven to nine months and can linger for years, longer than the administration of a living trust.
In cases where a decedent did not leave a will or trust, or designate an executor to carry out their wishes, the court will typically appoint a relative or family friend to serve as an administrator and consult with a probate attorney to manage the estate dissolution. There are a number of steps that must be taken between death and distribution of assets. Though each estate is unique, common steps found in the probate of most estates, include:
- Filing of a petition with the appropriate Probate Court.
- Notice to beneficiaries, heirs, and creditors of the estate.
- Executor/Administrator appointed.
- Inventory and appraisal of estate assets by Executor/Administrator.
- Claims filed by creditors and reviewed by Executor/Administrator.
- Payment of approved claims. Assets may need to be sold if the estate lacks liquidity.
- Preparation and payment of estate taxes.
- Final distribution of assets to beneficiaries and/or heirs.
Unfortunately, probate is unpredictable. That is why many people choose to avoid it. Given the choice, wouldn’t you prefer these matters be handled privately by your family, not by the courts? Wouldn’t you prefer to keep control of who receives what and when? And, if you have young children, wouldn’t you prefer to have a say in who will raise them if you can’t?
If your family is facing this situation, as a probate attorney, I will work closely with the assigned representative to identify your loved one’s property and heirs, pay off any valid debts, and distribute their assets accordingly, while easing your burden and giving you peace of mind throughout the process.