Last updated on June 17, 2020

Losing a loved one can be felt even more if you have to assist in administering his or her estate.

Legal rights need to be protected, and assets have to be safeguarded. Another priority is tax compliance. The late relative’s final wishes must be clearly followed. 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, Linda Bal & Associates is here to help. We advocate for your interests in an effective, efficient manner at this time that can be emotionally difficult.

Linda Bal is a skilled probate attorney with more than 25 years’ experience. She clearly explains your legal options. She takes charge of your probate matter from your free consultation through issuing letters of office and filing of the final report.

When you work with our team, you can have total peace of mind that your probate legal affairs are being expertly handled. Our lawyers have many years of successful service, problem-solving strategies and client obligation to resolve any probate legal predicament, including any dispute that could lead to probate litigation.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the legal process used to conclude all your financial and legal 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.

What Happens During The Probate Process?

The four basic steps of probate are as follows:

1. File a petition and notify the heirs and beneficiaries.

The first thing that happens is the identification of the executor, who will oversee the probate process. The executor is either named in your will or, if there is no valid will, appointed by the court. The executor will file a petition with the local probate court, provide details or your property and debts, distribute inheritance according to your will and more.

2. After appointment by the court, the personal representative has to provide notice to all known creditors of the estate and gather an inventory of the estate property.

The executor’s role involves collecting and maintaining all your assets and taking note of all debts and obligations. This includes your home, personal belongings, investment accounts, vehicles and more.

3. The estate must pay for all estate and funeral expenses, debts and taxes.

Your executor next decides which assets to use to pay estate taxes and debts. They will refer to your will and decide how to best respect your wishes while settling your estate. The executor may sell certain belongings to pay for debts, but they must do so in the interests of the estate.

4. Legal title in property is transferred as outline in the will or, if there is no will, under the laws of intestacy.

After the financial obligations of the estate are fulfilled, the executor will distribute the inheritance to your loved ones.

What Are The Problems With Probate?

1. Time

The probate process can be lengthy. If your heirs will rely on 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.

Contested or Complex estates can take two years or more to settle. Your heirs will have not received their inheritance until the probate process is finished. In some cases, the delay may exhaust estate funds and no inheritances are available to be given.

2. Cost

Going to court is expensive. There will be court costs and fees, even if the court is operating from a valid will. When no will exists, or if the legitimacy of it is questioned, helping administer the estate can be costly.

3. Lack of privacy

Probate court proceedings are public record. This means anyone is able to go to the courthouse and find out the amount you left to each heir and who you owed money.

This is not a concern just for the rich and famous. A spurned business partner or ex could get your information from the court files and cause your family problems.

4. Family squabbles

The death of a loved one can cause serious arguments among family members. Things like a large amount of assets, or blended families can lead to someone contesting the will. Family members may contest the will if they do not trust or like the person you designated as the executor of your will. Anyone can contest the contents of a will.

5. Pets

Pets are considered property by the state. This means just like your car or grandfather clock, you decide who gets your dog or cat. Using a will to direct who you wish to care for your pets is an option. However, there are trusts for pets where you can establish how you want a pet taken care of and set aside funds toward this.

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 630-912-5970 or email today for a free initial consultation.