May 21


Probate is the legal process which occurs after a person dies. Its purpose is to prove in court the validity of a deceased person’s Will. It also serves to inventory the deceased’s property and pocessions, have property appraised, pay debts and taxes, and to distribute the remaining property to beneficiaries as the Will instructs.
Assuming the deceased’s Will is up to date and properly drafted, the probate process should be fairly quick and painless. If there isn’t a Will however, or if the Will is somehow insufficient, then the process can become long and stressful.
If you do find yourself as a beneficiary to an unprotected estate, void of a Will, or where the Will is contested, rest assured that you are not without options. Most estate planning attorneys also handle probate proceedings.
Regrettably, people often choose to face their own mortality without the benefit of a Will. There are many reasons for this, but the biggest may be the worry over the expense involved. It isn’t hard to imagine that our heirs are equally concerned about consulting attorneys for the same reason.
Not long ago, we met with a client whose mom had passed, leaving her as the sole heir to mom’s estate. Mom did not have a Will, but she did have a valuable home which she intended her daughter to inherit. Being the sole heir, the daughter decided to represent herself in probate court. She showed up to court as instructed, filled out the necessary paper work, and followed procedure. What resulted were rejection notices and requests for resubmissions. The process left her fed up and frustrated.
She came to see us nine months later. During her consultation, she made it clear that money was an issue. She expressed concern and worry while sharing information in our conference room. She knew that she needed help from an expert but she didn’t think she could afford it.
What the client didn’t know, and what most people don’t know, is that good estate planning/probate attorneys are paid from the estate property. In our case, the attorney’s fees were paid from the proceeds after the house sold.
People don’t always understand that probate is just a legal process. It can be excruciating or it can be relatively painless. It all depends on how the person prepares. A properly drafted estate plan, including a Will and Trust is always the best path. Nevertheless, if a beneficiary doesn’t have the benefit of these documents, they still have an alternative path in hiring a probate attorney. The probate attorney can handle paper work, the appraisal process, follow up, and other various duties, all without billing a penny until the probate is final.

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