Even with the best of counsel, it is not always possible to avoid going through the probate process. For example, individuals with growing businesses may not be able to account for every single acquired or expanded asset at the time of their passing. Another instance in which a probate process is often required is a dispute between heirs: a situation which is not uncommon during the sensitive and trying time of mourning a loved one. Sometimes, something as simple as a misplaced signature, or lack of clarity in a deed, or a problem with a document scan can necessitate probate. Whether a probate case begins with a serious issue or is simply launched because certain documents need to be verified, it is a profoundly important function of American legislature, and it aims to protect both the integrity of the wishes of those who have passed, and the entitlements of their heirs.
What Happens in a Probate Case
A probate case begins with a petition. A petition can be filed by one of the persons disputing a will or another form of estate planning, or their attorney. It could also be filed by the state, in the event that relevant issues arise and require further clarification. During the proceedings, estate planning documents such as wills or trusts are authenticated, the value of the decedent’s assets is established and any confusion regarding beneficiary designations is hopefully clarified. Based on the evidence and consulting with state law, a probate court judge will oversee the distribution of the decedent’s assets to the rightful heirs. The court may also take charge of appraising various items in question, including those that don’t have a distinct monetary value. Another task of the probate process is the resolution of any debts of the decedent, including funeral expenses, taxes and attorney’s fees.
What Kind of Issues May Lead to Probate
Though many try to anticipate any problems with the division of their wealth, there is unfortunately no way to predict an untimely, sudden death, and cases of estate owners dying intestate, or without providing instructions for the allocation of their properties, are not uncommon. In such cases, the court would revert to the local state’s probate laws in determining who is entitled to which assets. If someone died without a will or a trust, it is likely that they also did not assign an executor for their estate, and so a court administrator would need to be appointed to direct the estate’s distribution after court decisions are made.
Another common scenario in probate cases is a family dispute. Especially in eclectic families, with children from several marriages, or in presence of other family structures that are not obviously hierarchical, it is sometimes difficult to interpret the wishes of the decedent, even if a will is present. And at times, heirs will dispute their apportionment even when the will’s instructions are clear. If they feel that the will’s directives were somehow against state law, they may try to seek protection in probate court.
Sometimes, an heir goes missing, or has passed. This, too, is an instance that demands court intervention, as the properties which are now unassigned, need to be redirected to other beneficiaries. Similarly, whenever there are properties which are unaccounted for in a will, they would also have to go through the probate process.
Why Do I Need an Attorney in Probate
Inheritance laws vary greatly from state to state and are difficult to keep track of. Without proper expertise, it is nearly impossible to anticipate what kind of evidence you will need to present in court, what documents will require verification, and how to present your entitlements in the way that will best serve you. Call today and work with a probate law attorney on getting the outcome that you deserve!