Probate is a legal process in which the court appoints an estate executor to analyze a deceased person’s assets and distribute them to his or her debtors and heirs. This process usually only occurs if the deceased person did not leave a last will and testament; however, a valid will can be contested in probate court. The laws do differ from state to state, but usually the assets of a deceased person’s estate are inaccessible until they are distributed by the court.
Probate is not a clean-cut and simple process. Depending on the amount and types of assets held by the deceased, it could take months or even years in order to properly distribute all of the assets. In addition to this, the cost of probate can get expensive, with executor fees and various administrative expenses accumulating quickly. Probate often causes family members of the deceased to get frustrated with the process and may even cause feuds within the family itself.
There are several methods that can be used to avoid the probate process. The first and foremost is to have a small estate. Most states have a limit on what probate can control over smaller-sized estates, with each state having their own limit for what counts as “small.” Another option to avoid probate is to hand out assets while they are still alive. This avoids disputes with the executor and possible probate taxes. The best method for avoiding probate is estate planning that includes a will or a trust. It is recommended to speak with an attorney to set these up properly.
During the course of the probate process, there are a number of legal issues that could potentially develop. One of the more common issues is estate settlement disputes. Since an executor is usually chosen through the closest relative, this opens the up the potential for disputes among the heirs. It’s important to have a probate attorney throughout the entire probate process to help resolve and even prevent disputes.
Probate is a complex and arduous process that can make a trying time for a family even worse. To avoid this from happening to their own families, every head of household should always try to make sure they leave a last will and testament or open a living trust to help manage their own estates after they die. Making sure that their family is taken care of while also keeping the distribution of assets running smoothly is important to everyone involved.