With close to three million people dying in the U.S. each year, many families come face to face with the reality of life without their loved one as well as the legal and family struggles that often come with legally distributing their estate.
Following the death of a loved one, family members and friends should be focusing on mourning the loss of a loved one, not dealing with the hassle of distributing their assets. However, far too often the distribution of assets and dealing with debtors is a hassle that ends with a court battle and you need to be prepared for this.
If you have a loved one who has passed away and their estate is being divided in a probate court, JacksonWhite Law’s probate team is here to help.
What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process through which the estate or assets of a deceased person are distributed amongst their heirs and beneficiaries after any debts left by the deceased have been paid. Usually this process is directed by a last will and testament that the deceased has filled out, but if a person has a contested will or dies without a will and testament and their estate meets certain criteria their estate will be distributed by a probate court.
Usually, probate is for the distribution of estates and assets that did not automatically transfer to the beneficiaries. Even though having a valid will and testament is both convenient and can speed up the process of distributing assets, beneficiaries can contest the will and if they do so the matter is sent to a probate court where a judge will listen to the claims of the beneficiaries and distribute the assets accordingly.
When an estate is sent to probate, it is wise to hire an experienced probate lawyer to assist you and ensure that you receive the assets that you are entitled to. If you do not hire a probate lawyer, you risk being taken advantage of and you may not receive what was left to you.
What is involved in the probate process?
The probate process is as follows:
- A family member, friend or an attorney is appointed as the administrator of the will and they will be referred to as the executor.
- The will must be validated by a probate court and this is done by checking the dates, signatures as well as legitimacy of the notaries.
- The deceased’s assets will be itemized as well as inventoried to ensure that nothing is stolen and to ensure all of the deceased’s assets are accounted for and given to the proper parties.
- Properties and assets will be appraised.
- All debts or taxes held by the deceased will be paid off by the selling of the deceased’s assets or property.
- Once all debts/taxes have been paid off, the remaining assets will be distributed according to the will(if there is one) or according to Arizona law.
Even though it is beneficial for you to have a probate lawyer with you throughout the entire probate process, it is extremely important to have them for step 6. It is during step 6 that the assets will be distributed and if you do not have an experienced lawyer to protect you, it is possible that you may be taken advantage of by the other beneficiaries.
One of the most common issues brought up by beneficiaries in probate is will contesting. There are many reasons that a will can be contested, the following are common reasons to contest the validity of a will:
It is possible for the deceased to have had multiple versions of their will due to changes they made over the years as well as other beneficiaries may submit inauthentic wills. A probate court will have to determine a wills validity.
Improper Execution of the Will’s Instructions
A will is supposed to give specific instructions regarding the transfer of assets to the beneficiaries but, as is often the case, some assets or property may not have been added to the will or the executor of the will may have given assets to the wrong person. In both cases, it is important to have an attorney assisting you and ensuring that the will is executed according to the deceased’s actual wishes.
Incapacity of the Person Who Made the Will
One of the requirements of a will is that it must have been made while the individual was of sound mind and judgment. If the individual who made the will was recently in a serious accident, was in declining health or affected by excess stress, it is possible that their judgment was clouded and their last wishes may have been imposed incorrectly.
If you believe there to be issues with the will of your loved one, call the experienced probate attorneys at JacksonWhite Law today to schedule an appointment to go over your options and ensure that you receive what your loved one left for you.