Probate is simply the legal procedure utilized to ensure that an individual’s personal property and possessions are properly distributed upon his or her death. In a simple nutshell, the probate process is designed to make certain that debts owed to a deceased individual are properly paid; that someone is in control of distributing the deceased’s estate; and that all terms of the will are fulfilled. Probate can take many different forms and can be handled on either a local or state level. The procedures involved can be simple or complex, depending upon the particular jurisdiction. In most cases, it is handled by a probate lawyer.
Typically, there are three parties that come into play during the probate process. First, there is the decedent; then there is the executor or administrator, and last there is the court. At the very start, the attorney for the deceased party – generally referred to as the ‘affiant’ – will file paperwork with the court that confirms the identity of the deceased person and states that they have power of attorney over their estate. This power of attorney will grant authority for whomever to handle the affairs of the decedent’s property: the executor or administrator, and anyone else whom the attorney feels is qualified to act on behalf of the decedent. Additionally, this form will indicate that the individual’s death has not been officially determined and that the administration has already begun.
Once this is completed, the probate court will issue a death certificate naming the deceased as the claimant of their estate and further stating that the administration has begun. This is often followed by a trust deed or living trust indicating that the person’s estate is being administered jointly by both the state and anyone else who has been named as an executor. At this point, it is important to remember that the real estate that is being protected must be protected and not sold until the probate process has been complete and all debts have been paid. The only exception to this rule is if the testator wishes to pay off any outstanding taxes against the deceased’s properties; this can often be accomplished fairly quickly with the help of an attorney.
When it comes to actually working with probate lawyers, there are a few things that you should be made aware of. The first thing that you need to know is that most people don’t realize that they can have a say in the way their estates are handled after their deaths. In many cases, the executor may choose to pay out settlements and keep some of the assets for themselves, and sometimes even sell assets that the probate court has ordered up for distribution. If you have questions about how your property will be distributed or if you would like to see any of your inheritance go towards a particular charitable organization, you should discuss this with the probate lawyer you have hired.
The next thing to be aware of is that a probate attorney is going to be one of the most knowledgeable people that you will ever meet. While most people never think about this aspect of their loved ones passing, their lawyer will be able to give you invaluable information regarding your options. Many times, this information can save you enormous amounts of time, money, and heartache. Even if you already have a will in place, a probate attorney can make modifications and amendments to it to ensure that everything is legally defined and permitted. It’s also their job to inform you of any debts that are not properly designated to beneficiaries and can impact your ability to receive your inheritance.
One other important piece of information to be aware of is that most of the time the probate process is not affected by estate planning options. Many people who create life insurance or other types of financial investment plans do not include probate in their planning because they believe that their estate will be better served through these methods. While probate can be a very involved process, many attorneys do not charge for this type of consultation and can help you through the process as smoothly as possible. If you are looking for ways to protect your assets from the probate process, a financial plan is probably a good idea. However, if you truly want to do everything possible to safeguard your inheritance and ensure that everything happens according to the law, a probate lawyer should be your number one concern.