What is Probate?

How does the Probate Process Work?

What are the Problems With Probate?

The loss of a loved one can be felt even more dramatically when you are called upon to help administer his or her estate.

Legal rights need to be protected. Assets should be safeguarded. Tax compliance can be a priority. The late relative's final wishes are to be followed explicitly. During the Probate legal process, an estate's assets are distributed according to the decedent's expressed wishes, and remaining debts are satisfied.

Whether or not a Will can be located following your loved one's passing, the Law Firm of Linda Bal and Associates is here to help. We advocate for your interests in an effective, efficient manner at this emotionally difficult time.

Linda Bal is a skilled Probate attorney with more than 25 years' experience. She explains your legal options clearly. She takes charge of your Probate matter from your free consultation through issuing Letters of Office and filing of the Final Report.

You will have complete peace of mind that your Probate legal affairs are being professionally handled. Our lawyers have the many years of successful service, problem-solving strategies and client commitment to resolve any probate legal predicament including any dispute that could lead to Probate litigation.

What is Probate?

In simple terms, Probate is nothing more than the legal process to conclude all your legal and financial matters after your death. It includes:

  1. Providing the Probate Court with a Copy of the deceased person's Will
  2. Identifying heirs and beneficiaries
  3. Identifying and valuing assets
  4. Paying debts and taxes
  5. Distributing the remaining property pursuant to the decedent's Will.

How does the Probate Process Work?

The four basic steps of Probate are as follows:

1. File a petition and give notice to heirs and beneficiaries.

After your death, the person you named in your will as Executor -- or, if you die without a will, the person appointed by a judge -- files papers in the local Probate Court. The Executor proves the validity of your Will and presents the court with lists of your property, your debts, and who is to inherit what you've left.

2. Following appointment by the Court, the Personal Representative must give notice to all known creditors of the estate and take an inventory of the estate property.

Your Executor must find, secure, and manage your assets during the Probate process, which commonly takes nine months to two years.

3. All estate and funeral expenses, debts and taxes must be paid from the estate.

Depending on the contents of your Will, and on the amount of your debts, the Executor may have to decide whether or not to sell your real estate, securities, or other property. For example, if your Will makes a number of cash bequests but your estate consists mostly of valuable artwork, your collection might have to be appraised and sold to produce cash. Or, if you have many outstanding debts, your Executor might have to sell some of your property to pay them.

4. Legal title in property is transferred according to the Will or under the laws of intestacy (if the decedent did not have a Will).

Finally, your property will be transferred to its new owners.

What are the Problems with Probate?

1. Time

The Probate process can take a long time. If your heirs need their inheritance to pay bills immediately, they are in trouble as with Probate it can take nine months or more for them to receive their inheritance. The nine month wait causes additional expenses if real estate is owned. The mortgage, real estate taxes and insurance all need to be paid even if no one is living in the home.

Complex or contested estates can take two years or more to settle. Your heirs will have to wait until Probate is concluded to receive their inheritance. In some cases, the delay may exhaust estate funds and no inheritances are available to be given.

2. Cost

Going to Court is expensive. If the court is working from a valid Will, then there will be court costs and fees. If there is no Will, or if its validity is being challenged, the price to help administer the estate will be high.

3. Lack of Privacy

The proceedings of the Probate Courts are a matter of public record. Anyone with the time and inclination can go to the courthouse and find out exactly how much you left to each heir and to whom you owed money.

Do not think of this as a trifling matter, just because you may not be wealthy or famous that no one cares. A spurned business partner or ex could get your information from the Court files and cause your family problems.

4. Family Squabbles

Many families have been torn apart by the arguments that can erupt after the death of a family member. If there are blended families because of divorce, a large asset base, or family members that do not like or trust the person you choose to be Executor of your Will, there may be a contested Will. Anyone can contest the contents of a Will.

5. Pets

For purposes of the state, pets are considered property. That means just like your car or grandfather clock, it's up to you to decide who gets your dog or cat. Though directing in your Will who you wish to care for your pets is better than doing nothing, there are actually Trusts for pets in which you can establish how you want a pet taken care of, and dedicate funds toward that purpose.

When it comes to financial matters, most problems and difficulties can be avoided with proper planning. Attorney Linda Bal is here to help you. Call or email today for a free initial consultation 630-912-5970.