When a family navigates probate court, it means they are working to carry out the wishes of a deceased loved one. In some situations, the process is fairly straightforward and runs smoothly. In other situations, there are unique circumstances that lengthen and complicate the process. Regardless, probate is a process that most families traverse at some time or another.
Whether you are navigating probate court with your own family, know someone who is, or are preparing for the process, it is beneficial to learn everything you can about probate court. This way, you can make educated and empowered decisions about your family, the deceased’s will, and your financial future.
Many court documents are available to the public, and probate court is no exception. When a will is entered into the official court record, it becomes available to the public should someone want to access it.
There are exceptions to this rule. Certain types of documents are considered confidential by the court. Though a will is not one of these documents, it is possible for a will or probate process to involve disclosure of confidential records. Such records include:
If any information from the above confidential documents overlaps with a person’s will or the probate proceedings, that information may be redacted for privacy. In a limited number of instances, the document contains enough confidential information that it is kept entirely private.
While the will holder is still alive, the court considers the will to be a private document. Even if your loved one worked with an estate planning attorney, you cannot access their will through public records. In fact, you don’t have any access to their will until they pass away or they give you personal permission to read it.
If you wish to view probate court records after the case has closed, you may do so through the probate clerk’s office at the county courthouse.
The probate process can be arduous and complicated. Though many deceased individuals created their will or trust with an estate planning attorney, that legal individual is unable to help you personally with the probate process. This is because they were hired by the deceased to protect their wishes. If they were to be hired by the deceased’s family as well, there would be a conflict of interest.
It is extremely beneficial to use a probate attorney to navigate your probate court process. Probate attorneys work for you and your family to help you navigate the complicated world of probate court. We help to ensure that the court does not take advantage of your loved one’s estate or your position. We can also stand with you as you interpret your loved one’s will and distribute their assets to their beneficiaries.
Though it is legal to traverse probate court without an attorney, many families are relieved to have legal help. It is important to remember that grief can create additional problems and drama, even if your family is close-knit and agreeable. Having someone working for you as a third party can make the process, especially the distribution of assets, move smoothly.
In some situations, a person dies before they make a will. This means the court must make an executive decision about what should happen to the deceased’s assets. After they take money for taxes and debts from the deceased’s estate, the court usually passesall of the deceased’s remaining possessions to their next of kin. Generally, this is their spouse if their spouse is still alive. If not, the court usually opts for the deceased’s children.
This can be problematic in many ways. There are situations in which a deceased person remarried before they died, and their biological children do not receive any inheritance because there was no will to be found. If the children’s stepparent chooses to bequeath their spouse’s funds to their own biological children, the deceased’s children don’t get anything that is owed to them.
Though this is not necessarily a common example, it can easily happen. It is important to create a strong will no matter your age or health status. As soon as you have significant assets or children, you should make a will to ensure that your possessions end up in the correct hands. This can help your loved ones to navigate probate and avoid serious problems down the line.
Most wills outline who should be the executor of the estate. This person must read the will and carry out the wishes of the deceased. If the will is outdated or has ambiguous areas, it is the executor’s responsibility to interpret and execute the will in the manner that is most in line with the deceased’s morals and intentions.
Being an executor can put you in a precarious situation. It is entirely possible for loved ones to become angry with you for the decisions you make. Though the outcome of a will is not your fault, they may take their anger out on you if they did not receive the inheritance they believe they deserve.
Public probate records can help with this. If family members have questions or concerns about the content of the will or the decisions of the court, they are free to access the probate record and see for themselves. A probate attorney also helps immensely. When you have a legal professional on your side, family members are less likely to doubt your decisions.
Not all law firms can navigate probate, but our team at Sweeney Probate Law has extensive experience in this field. We have seen probate situations of all kinds, and we can easily help you to navigate this difficult and confusing process. We stand by your side and ensure your loved one’s wishes are executed as well as they can be.
For more information on how we can help, contact Sweeney Probate Law online today.