Many people don’t know much about the probate process until they have to help settle a loved one’s estate. The first thing many personal representatives (also known as estate executors) learn is exactly what probate is: transferring ownership of someone’s assets to their beneficiaries. While that sounds simple, it isn’t.
Here are some reasons probate often is so complicated:
1. The personal representative for the estate has to account for all the deceased’s assets. Depending on how well the deceased documented their assets and where these assets are, the accounting of someone’s assets can take a long time. For example, what if your dad had multiple trusts, life insurance policies, owned two properties and had valuable antiques? It will take time to account for these assets and determine the worth of the properties and antiques.
2. Handling probate for an estate requires a lot of paperwork. First, a personal representative has to obtain several death certificates. The personal representative then has to complete paperwork to gain control of the deceased financial accounts and pay off any estate debts. You also may have to cancel your loved one’s automatic payments and subscriptions. Plus, eventually, the personal representative needs to pay the deceased’s taxes.
3. Modern families can face probate disputes. If your father had children from multiple marriages, someone may dispute the will if they feel they didn’t receive the assets they were expecting. If your father had dementia for several years, they may contest that your dad lacked the mental capacity when creating his most current will.
4. Because the probate process isn’t confidential, family members can find out the value of your loved one’s estate. That could lead to them claiming you are hiding some of the assets or aren’t distributing your dad’s assets properly.
Because of all the issues that can arise in the probate process, it’s best to work closely with an estate law attorney when settling an estate. An attorney can help ensure you don’t make mistakes and create additional obstacles in settling your loved one’s estate.
Dealing with probate can feel overwhelming and frustrating. But with the right help, you can move forward knowing you are handling your loved one’s estate properly.