Anyone who’s gone through probate knows that it can be slow and stressful. Fortunately, hiring a probate lawyer can help expedite and streamline the process, while ensuring you receive everything that’s due you.
From preparing filings to ensuring assets are distributed according to the deceased’s will, a knowledgeable probate attorney can help resolve your family’s estate more efficiently and with minimal strife. Today we will outline the probate process ab it and discuss what a probate lawyer can do for you.
The legal process following a person’s death, probate involves ensuring that property and other possessions end up in the right hands. If a will exists, the court will check that it’s valid, signed, and witnessed before distributing goods according to the instructions. If no will exists, the court will appoint a representative to assess the estate’s value, pay off any debts and taxes, and resolve disputes that arise among interested persons.
The probate process takes three different forms in the state of Arizona. With an informal probate, assets are distributed with only minimal supervision from the court and no visits to the courtroom. With a formal probate, a judge rules on the case after one or more court hearings.
Typically, formal probate is required when questions exist surrounding identification of heirs, the choice of personal representative, or the will’s validity.
Finally, supervised probate occurs when an estate is contested and involves the court overseeing all aspects of the case, from opening the estate to taking creditor statements. While any individual involved in the estate can request supervised probate, the court usually only requires this process in order to protect an inheritor or creditor.
Why You Need a Probate Lawyer in Arizona
Grieving a loved one’s passing is stressful enough without having to contend with the legal requirements of probate. That’s where a probate attorney can help. Here are some of the many reasons to consider hiring an attorney to handle your case:
Expedite the Process
Probate often takes more than a year to complete. Whether you want to receive assets faster or simply avoid spending months in court, a probate lawyer can expedite the process. Probate cases can be complex, and without a lawyer you may find yourself filing incorrectly or incompletely. A lawyer can help avoid these issues, ensuring the court receives all the necessary materials on time.
Resolve Family Conflict
Family disputes are all too common in probate cases. In some situations, issues arise because the deceased neglected to leave a will. At other times, interested parties may argue that the will is invalid. Whatever the circumstances, a probate lawyer can help navigate family disputes and prevent long-term rifts.
After all, probate attorneys have the experience, skill, and tact needed to explain what’s happening and present families with their options. The fact is that lawsuits sometimes arise over disagreements regarding assets and property. One of the best reasons to hire a probate lawyer is to prevent situations that lead to lawsuits, saving you money in the long run.
Argue in Court
Probate lawyers can also argue for individual parties in the event that a will is contested. While most wills are relatively clear and straightforward, some require the court to intervene and determine who will inherit. Although you are allowed to represent yourself in court, doing so will likely leave you at a disadvantage. A skilled probate attorney can ensure discovery deadlines are met and that evidence is presented in the correct manner.
Handle Tax Issues
Some individuals make arrangements for their assets to be placed in tax-advantaged ownership structures before they pass. However, if the estate owes money in the form of taxes and debts, these payments will have to be made before assets are given out. An experienced probate lawyer will be able to defend any choices made regarding ownership structures to taxing authorities. Additionally, they can help with financial issues surrounding debts, contracts, or business deals that were incomplete at the time of the estate owner’s death.
How to Avoid Probate
Clearly, hiring a lawyer can help simplify the probate process while ensuring heirs receive what’s due them. Still, many people opt to set up their estates in a way that avoids probate all together. Here are some of the types of assets and property that don’t have to go through the probate process:
Beneficiary-Named Items – Items that already have a stated beneficiary typically don’t have to go through probate. Examples include a life insurance policy that states the beneficiary on the deed.
Property Held Jointly With Survivor’s Rights – The court does not have to weigh in on property held jointly with survivor’s rights. In other words, if one property owner dies and someone else’s name is on the deed, the second person now owns the property in full.
POD and TOD Items – Certain assets marked as POD (Payable on Death) or DOD (Transferable on Death) may not have to go through probate. These include real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and stocks.
Items Placed in a Living Trust – Whatever assets are placed in a living trust are owned by the trust rather than the individual who passed. Hence, they don’t need to go through probate. If you’re using this tactic, be sure to transfer ownership of your property to yourself as the trust’s trustee.
Contact JacksonWhite Law for Probate Services
If you or a loved one is embarking on the probate process, don’t hesitate to contact JacksonWhite law for a consultation. Our experienced probate lawyers are ready to help with whatever issues you’re facing, from ensuring assets are distributed appropriately to preventing your case from being hung up in court. Additionally, we can work with you to set up an estate or trust that saves your family time and stress down the line.