Grief from bereavement is an overwhelming feeling for most human beings. Nonetheless, the decedent’s surviving family must keep living, and part of that transition entails the probate process.
Probate is a legal, court-supervised process entailing examining a decedent’s will to prove its authenticity. Besides will authentication, it also includes identifying the will’s executor (the person appointed by the decedent to oversee administration) and asset division.
However, while it sounds seamless on paper, probate is daunting, even with a will at hand; it worsens without a will. Fortunately, hiring a probate litigation lawyer makes the process easier. Learn more probate lawyer benefits below.
1.Reduce Probate Duration
Lengthy procedures, taking months, or even years, are among the infamous daunting probate elements. The multi-step legal process includes filing petitions, issuing notices, debt handling, and estate valuation, among other steps based on state laws.
Moreover, estate conflict often arises when persons or claimants challenge a will and file claims for assets, among other instances. According to one survey report, three in four people are likely to experience a will, inheritance, or probate dispute at least once in their lifetime.
Navigating probate without legal knowledge is challenging because unprecedented events like debt, owed taxes, and disputes can derail you, making progress painfully slow. Also, last wills and testaments vary based on the decedent. Therefore, previous exposure to probate only counts for a little because each will and estate presents unique circumstances.
However, hiring a specialized probate litigation law firm hastens the process, depending on the size and complexity of the estate in question.
First, an estate lawyer can advise you on how to avoid probate altogether based on the estate in question’s size and probate laws in your jurisdiction. Some states have laws permitting beneficiaries inheriting small estates to skip probate and close the estate sooner.
Second, they can arrange for you to receive non-probate assets like life insurance funds, payable-on-death accounts, pension funds, retirement savings, securities, and community property. Therefore, you can have financial assets to keep you going before the executor closes the estate.
Third, they can handle creditors and owed taxes. Moreover, they can help organize the will and retrieve requisite asset ownership documents like titles and deeds to smoothen the process for the executor.
2.Navigate Estate Disputes
As highlighted above, estate disputes are more likely than not to occur. The disputes may involve the decedent’s surviving next of kin or other claimants who content the will for various reasons.
Common estate dispute conflicts include claims that the decedent was not in the right frame of mind while writing the will in question or may have been under the undue third-party influence, including coercion. Also, some claimants may challenge a choice because they received too little or got excluded altogether.
Probate disputes are messy, with family members turning against each other, and some can escalate to violent crimes. However, you can avoid the mess by hiring a probate litigation attorney to use the law rather than sentiment to defend your claim or make a claim for claim dismissal.
Specialized probate lawyers have ample experience handling estate disputes and are unlikely to be blind-sided during the process. Moreover, they can ensure the parties involved in the dispute arrive at a fair settlement without too much compromise on your part via court trial alternatives like negotiation and mediation.
3.Support The Will’s Executor
Regardless of a lack of legal knowledge, any individual above 18 years can be an executor, provided the decedent appointed them in their last will. However, as stated earlier, probate is a multi-step process, most requiring engaging the probate court.
An executor with limited legal knowledge will likely stumble along the way due to a limited understanding of the process and an inability to foresee hurdles. More often than not, probate takes its toll on the executor, yet they are responsible for closing the estate.
Moreover, any errors on their part can cause the probate court to reject the estate, creating unnecessary delays, not to mention personal liability exposure to the executor. However, hiring a probate litigation attorney ensures the process is as smooth as possible and peaceful for all involved, including the executor.
4. Court Representation
Litigation or a court trial is a last resort to estate disputes, as it is costly and unnecessarily prolongs probate. Unfortunately, some families defend their claim to the decedent’s estate in probate court.
On the one hand, self-representation in probate court is an option. However, as legal professionals say, “ those who represent themselves in a court of law have fools for clients,” meaning self-representation can go awry with little to no chance of recovery.
Therefore, consider hiring a probate lawyer during trials to increase the chances of the probate court ruling in your favor. Specialized lawyers are familiar with the court’s process and are unlikely to be blindsided.
5. Offering Legal Recommendations For The Future
While closing the decedent’s estate marks the end of the executor’s responsibility, it is the beginning of a massive adjustment for the decedent’s beneficiaries. For starters, managing assets can be overwhelming for beneficiaries without previous access to certain assets or large volumes of cash.
However, a probate litigation lawyer can recommend establishing trusts and refer you to an estate, trust, or commercial and business lawyer to help with the adjustment.
Probate is an integral estate administration element, and failing to probate an estate or mishandling the situation results in dire legal consequences. However, engaging a specialized probate litigation attorney allows beneficiaries a peaceful and seamless probate process.