Probate is a process in which the courts closely examine a person's last will and testament with the object of ensuring that the wishes of the deceased are properly carried out. It's often a cumbersome process that can take over a year to be completed and is vulnerable to a wide variety of obstacles and complications. Acting as the executor of an estate is a huge responsibility and comes with many pitfalls. Following are four of the major hurdles you may encounter when a loved one passes away and the will goes through the probate process and how a good probate attorney can help ensue smooth sailing through the probate process.
The Will May Be Contested
Contested wills are among the most common problems faced by heirs. This is a particular problem if the deceased hasn't gone through the legal formalities involved in crafting a last will and testament with the assistance of a skilled legal professional. It is often difficult to prove that a handwritten will that has never been filed with a lawyer is indeed the last document generated by the deceased. Other issues that may lead to contested wills are questions concerning whether the document was signed under duress, whether the principle was mentally incapacitated at the time it was signed, and whether the document was prepared in compliance with the rules and regulations specific to the applicable state.
Attempts to contest a will usually aren't successful unless solid proof exists that satisfies the court that the wishes of the deceased weren't properly represented. However, a contested will can drag out the probate process for years, and without the legal expertise necessary to navigate these tricky waters, layman executors often find themselves way in over their heads.
There May Be Family Friction
Even if the will is not contested, a significant amount of family friction may be a part of the picture, and the executor will be expected to address each person's individual concerns and complaints. The assistance of a probate attorney can help smooth things over and provide professional guidance if things become contentious between beneficiaries.
Dealing With Probate is Time Consuming
There's a lot of paperwork involved with being the executor of an estate. It's the executor's job to contact all beneficiaries in a manner that's compliant with state regulations, act as a mediator in minor disputes, notify creditors of the passing of the deceased by filling out paperwork and providing them with a death certificate, and ensure that outstanding debts accrued by the deceased are paid. The executor may even be required to post a bond to ensure that the estate is protected in the event of any losses that result from decisions he or she has made in regards to handling and distribution of funds. Executors are also responsible for having the estate appraised to determine the actual worth of the assets, which could involve lengthy and expensive processes if antiques and other valuable items are involved.
Executors may also be held legally liable if the estate has not been administered in accordance with the exact letter of the law.
Third Party Delays May Be Part of the Picture
Banks and other third party financial institutions may deny access to funds to the executor of the state for long periods of time if they have questions or concerns about a non-validated will. A probate attorney will be able to to wade through this red tape and keep the process moving along. Most people find it in their best interests to get the probate process over with as quickly as possible.
Please contact a local probate attorney for more advice and information on handling estate executor responsibilities in a positive and productive manner.