Probate Proceedings

Probate Proceedings

After the death of a loved one, there will be many legal steps which must be taken before their property can be divided as stated in the Last Will and Testament (“Will”). Generally speaking, this process will take place in probate court, unless legal steps to avoid probate were taken before the death. The Will has no legal authority until it has been approved in probate court, and only then will the assets and property be divided amongst heirs as required in the document.

The process begins when the deceased person’s representative files a number of documents with the court, including the official death certificate and the original Will. It is then determined whether the estate will go through formal or informal probate. Informal probate proceedings are almost always much faster and less complicated, and therefore more desirable. However, formal probate will be required for estates in which the sum of assets is worth more than $150,000 (some exemptions to inclusion apply) or there is real estate worth more than $50,000 involved, and in which the deceased was not married with all assets designated to the surviving spouse.

If the estate is assigned to formal probate, the court will hold a hearing in order to determine the validity of the Will as well as the competency of the testator at the time of the Will’s drafting . Witnesses may be called to testify to the Will’s authenticity and to affirm that it was properly executed as required by law. During this time objections to the Will may be filed, and this can often complicate proceedings and keep the estate tied up in probate for considerable time.

Under informal probate, the process proceeds much more smoothly, and often without further address of the Court. The decedent’s representative will still need to complete a number of forms, provide notice to parties of interest, address any creditor claims, appraise assets and distribute as specified by the Will.

Whether an estate is assigned to formal or informal probate, the process can be quite difficult and often includes many potential pitfalls unless legal representation is sought. The assistance of an experienced attorney will often help the process move along more quickly, and will protect heirs from various legal liabilities which can occur.

Please contact us directly to set up a consultation.

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