When someone dies, there are a lot of raw emotions that the surviving loved ones feel in the aftermath. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of time for grieving and processing a loss before the technical details of handling the deceased’s estate need to be addressed. People who have gone through this can often recognize how challenging it can be, and they often want to find a way to set their family up for as smooth and painless a process as possible. This is something that can often be achieved with a little preparation on the front end.
One way to address the expense and challenge of the probate process is by working with a lawyer. An experienced probate attorney knows the potential issues and difficulties that can emerge through the process. They can help you prepare for those concerns ahead of time. When the probate process is being executed, they can help solve potential issues quickly, rather than having them drag on endlessly. Allowing a lawyer to help prepare your estate for the process is one of the most effective means of making the process cheaper and easier for your loved ones.
Another means of making probate cheaper and easier is to try to avoid the process as much as possible. There are a number of different ways that an asset may avoid the probate process, such as being categorized through certain designations or being placed in a living trust. These options require a fair bit of upfront planning and can cost a little more than a standard will. However, it can help reduce just how involved your family will have to be with the lengthy, complicated probate process.
A: Assets that can avoid the probate process will need to, generally, have action taken ahead of time to see that they are designated in a category that is not subject to probate. Sometimes, the designation is built into the ownership of the assets, but you still should consider having a lawyer double-check and ensure that it is all properly set up. Retirement accounts are exempt from probate but need to have an appointed beneficiary for the account to pass on to. Trustee accounts, where you acted as trustee, guardian, or conservator for someone else, are also exempt, as is a life estate. Assets that are given a “payable on death” or “transfer on death” designation are also excluded from probate. Having a lawyer ensure that they are registered properly is good practice. Perhaps the most thorough way to ensure that your assets are able to avoid probate is by having a lawyer put together a well-crafted living trust. Assets in the trust will not be subject to the probate process.
A: If everything goes perfectly smoothly, there are no issues with the executor or administrator of the estate, and there’s no conflict regarding the assets of the estate, then it’s possible that you may not need a probate lawyer to assist with the process. Unfortunately, probate rarely goes that smoothly. Working with a lawyer can be valuable in case things get complicated. An experienced lawyer can help smooth out the process because they have an understanding of how to handle the unexpected. They are familiar with all sorts of concerns, from out-of-state executors to missing wills.
A: While probate may seem pretty simple, there are minor details that must be accomplished at each step of the process, which can add to the difficulty. Of course, there’s also the possibility of conflict among the heirs and beneficiaries, which can also lead to problems. Generally, probate involves the following:
A: Probate can, at times, be a slow, costly process, which is one of the reasons why some people seek to set up as much of their estate to avoid it as possible. Depending on how thorough, or rather un-thorough, the will involved is, there is some possibility of dispute and heirs petitioning the court for a different distribution of assets. This can lead an already emotionally raw situation to turn ugly. Lastly, probate is a matter of public record, so the assets involved and their distribution will be available for anyone to see, leading to privacy concerns. This issue is one reason why many people may opt for a living trust instead of a probate-subject will.
For years, Sweeney Probate Law has been assisting families through the often-complicated probate process. If your goal is to make things run more smoothly for your family, we can help. We can walk you through some of the steps on the front end that can ensure that things are made easier for your family when the time comes to execute your estate. Additionally, we can guide them through the probate process and work through any unforeseen issues that may arise. If you’re ready for some help preparing your estate for the process, contact us today.