Have you recently lost a family member and you are getting ready to begin the probate process, but are unsure about whether or not you should retain a probate lawyer? If you can relate to any of the following issues or concerns, consulting a probate lawyer for advice may be in your best interest:
- You have been named the executor and are unsure about what is expected of you.
- You have found more than one will.
- You suspect there has been undue influence or fraud.
- The estate is large or complex.
- A will dispute has arisen.
- You are ready to draft an estate plan for your future and your loved ones.
If you believe something from the above, or perhaps another issue, holds true, you should contact an attorney for assistance.
What is Probate?
Probate is a process that involves many things, including the need to prove the will is valid, overseeing the terms of the will, and distributing assets accordingly. At the time the will was drafted, the decedent must be named an executor or administrator. They will have a duty to:
- Gather, inventory, and evaluate all assets.
- Sell any assets to pay off debts.
- Notify creditors of the will.
- Pay off any debts or taxes.
- Transfer remaining assets to the beneficiaries.
When only a will exists, the estate must go through the probate process. This is required in all fifty states. There are exceptions to this — such as if a trust exists or the estate is worth less than $40,000 (this amount can vary). The circuit court nearest to the residence of the decedent will oversee the probate process. Depending on how complicated the estate is or whether there are any disputes, the process can take a few months to a few years, or more. The average time is nine months. It can benefit you to have a probate lawyer on your side.
After learning about the probate process, some people will seek alternative estate planning options. As an estate planning lawyer will explain to you, it is possible to skip probate, but this must be planned ahead of time — before the death of the decedent. In other words, rather than drafting a living will, you should consider the following to avoid probate:
- Create a trust.
- Name beneficiaries on any financial account, investment plan, or retirement plan.
- Have joint ownership of assets (i.e. property).
- Gift assets prior to your death.
By including some or all of the above into your estate plan, probate may be avoided. That being said, whenever there is a will (even if there is also a trust), or the decedent died intestate (without any will or trust), probate is legally mandatory.
Speak with an Attorney Today
Whether you are planning your estate or are the executor of an estate, you likely have questions and concerns. Call a probate lawyer, like a probate lawyer in Chandler, AZ, to get honest answers and advice that you can count on.
Thanks to Citadel Law Firm for their insight into what probate is and why a lawyer can be helpful throughout the process.