The Top Four Questions About Probate
Whether you are an heir, beneficiary, personal representative or concerned family member, probate can be stressful. In addition to enduring the emotional grief after losing a loved one, navigating the legal and financial issues of probate can also be difficult.
I am the personal representative. What now?
As the personal representative of your loved one’s estate, you have several administrative duties. It is important to understand that the law obligates you to act in the interests of the estate – not your own. The failure to uphold this duty can lead to major penalties. Your attorney can help you understand your responsibilities, collaborate with the probate court and manage the process of securing and distributing assets.
What can I do if I suspect someone manipulated my loved one’s will?
Undue influence is a serious and complex issue. There is a fine line between coercion and genuine influence.
Because your loved one is no longer able to communicate their true wishes, there are several factors to consider, including:
- Whether the will highly favors or excludes particular beneficiaries
- When the changes to the will occurred
- Evidence of communication, such as threats or lying
- Whether your loved one was vulnerable to manipulation
These cases can be difficult to prove. If you have a compelling case, you may contest the will with an experienced probate litigation lawyer.
If there is no valid will, who will inherit the house?
If the house is not already covered in a trust, a will or another legal document, several different things could happen. Real estate is complicated, so consult an attorney if you have concerns.
If your loved one shared joint tenancy with someone else with right of survivorship, that person will receive your loved one’s share of the home. This is typically accomplished by filing the death certificate with the appropriate county register of deeds. This situation is common for spouses who live together.
If your loved one lived alone, the court may either distribute the home to the decedent’s next of kin, or it may instruct the personal representative to sell the house and distribute the profit among creditors or heirs to the estate.
How long does probate take?
The probate process will last a minimum of 8 months because that is the amount of time that the estate must remain open in order to provide notice to creditors. From there, a number of different factors can impact the length of time it will take to complete the probate process:
- Will vs. intestacy. Having a will can make the probate process smoother and less complicated. This lessens the time necessary to complete the probate process. If the decedent did not have a will, then heirs will need to be located which can sometimes stretch out the process.
- Disputes involving the will and probate process can sometimes arise. This litigation can greatly affect the timeline for completion of the probate process.
- The more assets and complex situations that the deceased had, then the longer the potential time period for the resolution of probate. These assets need to be cataloged, valued, and a plan needs to developed for their eventual distribution.
- Sometimes an estate lacks sufficient liquid assets in order to pay debts and distribute proceeds. This can require the sale of assets which can be time-consuming.
On average, the probate process will take between 9 months and one year.
Without a valid will, intestate probate can take a long time, such as a year or longer. Having an updated will can shorten parts of this process, often allowing beneficiaries to access inheritance much faster.