The probate process varies greatly from case to case. Many frequent questions relating to the probate process do not possess general answers that would apply to all scenarios, therefore an experienced probate lawyer can be of immense significance. On the other hand, the probate process does not require to be as difficult as people often believe. A good probate lawyer usually makes the entire process run without difficulties and perils end fairly quickly. In cases where the probate process causes some distress, problems almost never arise from the court, but from the circumstances surrounding the decedent. These circumstances are usually of financial, legal and, very often, personal nature and they would cause difficulties even if probate process was to be avoided. That is why dealing with them under the supervision of a court might actually prove to be a better option and reduce the amount of problems at hand, thus the importance of a good legal representative in such cases should not be taken lightly.
How the probate process begins
The legal process that follows death of a person is called probate. But, there is not always the need to probate a will the decedent has left. This is done only in such cases where the assets of the decedent are valued at at least $30,000 or more. The Surrogate’s Court from the county where the decedent died must admit the will to probate, or, to put it differently, the Surrogate’s Court must come to conclusion that the will in question is valid.
What makes a will valid?
First, the testator must be competent to create the will by his or her own free will. Also this must be performed without any undue influence or duress. Secondly, for the will to be considered valid, the testator must sign it in the presence of not fewer than two witnesses. Furthermore, each of the witnesses must sign the will in the presence of the other one.
For the probate process to begin, the will must be filed, as well as the probate petition with the court. Following this, all of the issues in the will will be addressed by the court that issues Letters Testamentary, which is a document that states the authority of the executor of the estate who is then responsible for identifying the decedent’s property, having it appraised, paying taxes and debts and distributing the property according to the decedent’s last will. If someone suspects that the will is not valid, he or she may file objections to the probate, thus starting a will contest.
What are the costs of probate?
We have already mentioned that the probate process can differ greatly in various cases. The difficulties of a particular case may make it impossible to give any certain predictions regarding price, but, generally speaking, legal fees regarding a simple probate can be considered affordable, whereas the fees associated with a contested probate may raise the fees significantly. Simple probate is a case where all parties are in full agreement with the terms stated in the will. The charges of the Surrogate’s Court regarding filing fees are based on the value of the estate.
How long can the probate process last?
Very similarly to the options regarding costs, the length of a probate process can vary greatly. A simple probate that we discussed previously can last a couple of weeks and it mostly depends on the Court’s schedule, while the probate regarding a contested will can prove to be a very lengthy process, in which it is impossible to predict how long it will last, due to the particular complexities surrounding each particular case.
Is there a need for an attorney in the matters regarding probate?
No legal requirements to hire an attorney to help you with a probate process exist, especially when it comes to a simple probate. If you feel comfortable and confident enough, you can take care of a simple probate yourself. Still, numerous matters regarding probate can prove to be very challenging and grueling for the inexperienced, ant that is why a well educated, highly appreciated and experienced probate lawyer can be a valuable asset on your side. Even with simple probate cases numerous problems may occur, just some of them being difficulties in locating all of the parties, problems with unclear language formulations in the will and the possibility that a certain unsatisfied party can file objections to the probate thus contesting the will. In such a case, a plethora of issues might surface, creating further problems. With this kind of a case, having legal assistance is invaluable.