When someone passes away, they often leave an estate behind. That estate can consist of various types of property that may include little things such as digital accounts, cash, and cars, and larger assets such as stocks, bonds, business interests, and real estate. Someone who has planned ahead and left a solid, clean and legal estate plan should have no trouble passing these items onto the heir or heirs of their choice. Someone who does not plan ahead, however, may end up passing away with no clear instructions on what is to happen to their properties or accounts. In this case, the entire estate may end up in probate.
The term probate refers to a legal process. Probate is defined as a legal process where a Will is reviewed by a Court to determine whether it is valid and authentic. Probate also refers to the general administering of a deceased person’s Will or the estate of a deceased person without a Will (called intestate). To put it more simply it is the legal process used to make sure last instructions are valid and legitimate so that the handing down of assets is done correctly.
Most people who have been left property from a deceased person want that property and want it now (insert image from Willie Wonka). Inheriting a chunk of money for most people gives a sense of financial relief, no matter how large or small the amount. In any case, who would desire for their assets to go through probate?
There are two primary reasons to avoid probate: Time and money. When someone passes away and has probate assets (assets in the decedent’s sole name at death), there are many things that happen. First, the financial institution will freeze the account until a Personal Representative (formally known as the executor) is appointed. To get a Personal Representative (“PR”) appointed, there are lots of forms that need to be completed. The PR will need to hire an attorney to complete the forms, the PR will have to give notice to all interested persons (the PR will tell the client who these people are), and these forms must be filed at the Probate Court with a fee. Then you have to wait for the court to issue a citation. All of this will take 3-4 months. Then once you have the citation from the court, you have to publish it in a newspaper. Then you have to wait a month to see if anyone objects. Then you have to file more paperwork called the Return of Service. Once you have filed that you have to wait for the Court to issue Letters of Authority. This again can take another 2-3 months.
But what if you need that money in the account or you need to sell the house before it goes into foreclosure? Doesn’t matter. You have to wait.
Then once you finally receive the golden ticket, called the Letters of Authority, you can close out the decedent’s accounts and open up an estate account. Then you have to file an inventory of the estate assets, and then an accounting of all expenses and distributions from the estate.
The time involved can take years depending on the case and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has only made the wait even longer as courts are not operating at full capacity.
The good news is that all of this can be avoided if you plan ahead! Probate is much more expensive than an estate plan with a roadmap to avoid the probate process. That is why it is so important to obtain the advice of a probate expert when looking to avoid probate. A probate attorney who is extremely knowledgeable in probate law is your best bet.
At Ladimer Law our first and foremost purpose is to set our clients up to avoid probate. At our private consultations we make specific recommendations for each asset of our clients. We give them specific instructions on what to do to make sure their plan is implemented. Having a Will or Trust in place is not enough, you need to follow your attorney’s instructions to fund the trust or update beneficiaries on your accounts to make sure the legal documents work as you discussed with your attorney.
If you want to learn more about how to avoid probate, call us today or visit us online at www.ladimerlaw.com. Our fantastic and friendly staff is here to assist you and guide you through the process with minimal expense and time involved. Don’t let probate get you down. Explore the law and your rights today!
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Natick, MA 01760
Ladimer Law specializes in estate planning. We protect our clients, their heirs, and their assets by listening closely, knowing the law, and executing estate plans that fit and evolve.