No one can prepare you for the feelings you’ll experience after the death of a loved one. Along with grief and sadness, you may feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities of settling your loved one’s estate. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, stressed out, and guilty for taking away time from grieving to deal with the legalities of probate. Fortunately, you don’t have to go through the probate process alone. With the help of a probate attorney, you can take the burden of settling your loved one’s estate off your shoulders by assigning many of the probate tasks to your hired legal support. This can dramatically increase the speed of the probate process while giving you more time to heal.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal process of settling a deceased person’s estate. This includes identifying and inventorying the assets of the deceased person, paying off any debts or taxes owed, and dividing the remaining assets among the heirs. The process can be very complex, especially if the estate is large or if there are disagreements among the beneficiaries. However, if there is a will in place, the probate process is traditionally much faster after obtaining approval from the court on the will’s validity.
How Long Do You Have to File Probate After Death?
If you are named as the executor in a will, you have up to one year after the person’s death to file probate and settle the estate in California. This may seem like a long time, but it’s important to remember that probate is a complex legal process. It can take several months of hard work to settle an estate. There is no possibility of contacting an attorney days before the deadline and trying to “rush” through the process. It is highly recommended that you start the probate process as soon as possible to avoid any unnecessary delays.
Some key factors that indicate your probate process may take longer than usual:
- The wrong executor has been selected: If the executor is not up to the task or is unable to fulfill their duties, this can cause significant delays in probate. It is important to select an executor who is organized, has a good understanding of the probate process, and is willing to put in the time and effort to settle the estate.
- The estate is large and complex: A large estate can be very complex, especially if there are multiple assets and beneficiaries. It is important to have a clear understanding of the assets and debts of the estate before starting probate.
- There are disagreements among the beneficiaries: If the beneficiaries of the estate cannot agree on how the assets should be distributed, this can cause delays in probate. It is important to have a clear understanding of the wishes of the deceased and the beneficiaries before starting probate to immediately resolve any potential disagreements.
- The beneficiaries live in different states or countries: If the beneficiaries of the estate live in different states or countries, this can cause delays in probate. Establishing communication channels and key dates for in-person meetings is difficult but a necessity to keep probate moving along.
- The estate possesses rare items: If the estate includes rare items, such as art, jewelry, or collectibles, it is important to have these items appraised by a qualified professional. This can take time and may require the executor to obtain multiple appraisals.
- There are multiple wills: If there are multiple wills, time can be wasted trying to determine which one is the most recent and valid. Getting an early start on probate can help avoid this issue.
- The estate owes taxes: If the estate owes taxes, the executor will need to ensure that all tax returns are filed and that the taxes are paid. This can take time, especially if the estate is on the larger side.
If any of these items strike you as items that may apply to the estate you’re handling, it’s best to start the probate process as soon as possible after the death of your loved one.
Do You Need a Lawyer to Help with Probate?
You are not required to have a lawyer to help you with probate, but it is highly recommended to alleviate some of the historic pain points that have kept many loved ones from obtaining timely probate.
Some key benefits of working with a lawyer during probate include:
- A deeper understanding of the law: Probate can be a complex legal process. A lawyer can help you navigate the often-confusing legal landscape and ensure that you are taking all the necessary steps to settle the estate.
- More time to grieve: Dealing with the death of a loved one is difficult enough. Having to handle the paperwork and legalities of probate can be overwhelming. A lawyer can take care of the details of probate while you focus on grieving.
- Less stress: Probate can be a stressful process. A lawyer can help take some of the burdens off your shoulders. For example, a lawyer can help you communicate with beneficiaries who might be difficult to reach or who live in different states or countries. If there is a dispute among beneficiaries, a lawyer can also step in to negotiate a resolution and defend estate law.
- A higher chance of success: Probate can be a complex and detailed process. A lawyer can help make sure that all the necessary steps are taken and that the process is followed correctly. This increases the chances that probate will be successful and that the estate will be settled in a timely manner.
These are a few key reasons why you should consider working with a lawyer during probate.
Sweeney Probate Law
If you have questions about how long you have to file probate after death or you need help with probate, contact Sweeney Probate Law. We are a highly specialized estate planning law firm with a narrow focus on probate law. We have extensive experience helping executors and beneficiaries execute the probate process successfully. Contact us today to begin consultation and see how we can help you.