The ideal estate plan is going to be constructed in a way that leaves behind a turnkey situation for your loved ones.
You should first execute all of the appropriate estate planning documents to express your wishes. At the same time, you should consider the postmortem phase. Unless you take proactive steps to avoid it, this will include the probate process.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal process of estate administration. When you possess personal property at your death, the property becomes subject to probate. Even if you have a will directing the transfer of your assets, these distributions will not take place until the estate has been probated.
The reason for the delay is that the heirs to the estate that are named in the will are not necessarily the only interested parties. Final debts must be paid, and probate gives creditors an opportunity to come forward seeking satisfaction on those debts. They must be notified during the process of probate.
Final taxes must be paid as well.
Finally, there is the issue regarding the validity of the will itself. The probate court is charged with the responsibility of determining the validity of the will. As a result, anyone who wants to challenge the will can present an argument during probate.
The executor of the estate handles the administrative tasks under the court’s supervision. He or she must inventory property and prepare it for distribution to the heirs. This can involve appraisals and liquidation.
Since probate is a legal process, the executor is usually going to retain the services of a probate lawyer. The executor that you choose should be a business savvy individual. However, he or she may not have a great deal of legal experience. The guidance that a probate lawyer can provide is invaluable during the process.
Who is going to act as the probate lawyer? You can be proactive about making things easy for your executor by asking yourself this question when you are planning your estate.
If you do things correctly, you are going to discuss your situation in considerable detail with your estate planning lawyer. This is the same attorney who will actually draw up your estate planning documents for you. This is also the perfect time to arrange for your estate planning firm to handle the probate duties after you pass away.
Under these circumstances, you simply let your executor know whom to contact when the time comes. This is the type of thing that would typically be contained within your letter of final instruction.
Your executor will have the legal assistance that he or she will need standing at the ready and just a phone call away. The firm will already be familiar with your estate plan and family situation, and the administration of the estate should go smoothly.