Most of the time when people talk about probate, they are trying to find ways to avoid it. And it’s no wonder, as the process can be lengthy and expensive, depending on the value and complexity of the estate in question. Although most people do what they can to stay out of probate court, it provides a necessary service, especially for families who might not have a will in place. Here is what you need to know about what goes on in probate court if you are handling estate planning duties.
Probate and the Law
The term “probate” refers to the legal process of distributing assets, the court itself, and the actual distribution process. This makes it somewhat confusing to know how the word is being used in all instances, but in general, probate refers to the legal distribution of assets to the beneficiaries of a deceased person’s will. In many states probate is required, although there are steps that can be taken to simplify the process, such as creating a trust. Estate planning attorneys can help you determine if one of these options is right for you.
Probate begins when the death certificate and petition are filed in the probate court by a representative of the estate. The court then determines whether or not the will is valid. After that, it is up to the executor named in the will to distribute assets according to the deceased person’s wishes and take care of all other estate administration duties. If there is no will, the court will generally appoint an administrator to take care of finding and distributing assets. There are court and assessment fees involved as well, meaning that probate can be quite expensive. Usually the fees are taken out of the estate’s estimated value.
How long does probate take?
The length of probate varies depending on the amount of assets and how they are distributed. For instance, if there are debts to be settled, the person’s creditors must be alerted and given a reasonable amount of time to respond to the notice. In addition, taxes must be paid and everyone named in the will must be contacted. Some states require waiting periods that can range between 30 and 90 days, which also lengthens the process. Of course, if someone decides to contest the will, it will drag out probate as well.
For this reason, many people take measures to streamline the probate process if possible. Because probate is governed by state and local laws, it is best to find a reputable estate planning lawyer in your area if you have questions about the specifics of probate and how to avoid it.
Probate can be a daunting process, but tackling it step by step will ensure that you handle the estate successfully. Of course, if you have concerns about the estate, you should contact a professional. If you have questions about the probate process, contact local Queens probate lawyer Richard Cary Spivack for a consultation.