Many people describe the probate process as routine. However, even routine issues in American law call for counsel. You should consult with a probate lawyer to reduce the chances that any of these five issues might become less than routine.
Establishing which court has jurisdiction over the probate process is important. Until a court has established jurisdiction, nothing else happens. Normally, the court in charge of the case is the probate court for the county where the decedent last officially resided. A deceased person's mailing address is typically enough to establish their residence. Even if this seems simple and obvious, a probate attorney can help interested parties make sure the court gets the jurisdiction right.
Avoiding Paperwork Mistakes
Just because something is routine in the legal sense doesn't mean that there aren't potential pitfalls. Any party with an interest in the probate process needs to file paperwork. For example, someone has to provide a copy of the last known testament of the deceased. If anyone questions the will, they need to request a copy of the submitted one and then also file paperwork to ask the probate judge for a review. The judge may dismiss anything that includes a mistake.
Even the basic activities of probate come with paperwork. The executor needs to account for everything during the disposition of the estate. A mistake in the accounting could raise questions that lead to litigation. Perhaps a mistake is fixable, but that still slows the process.
Answering the Court's Questions
Judges like to ask questions. Yes, judges ask questions even in painfully routine probate cases. Making sense of the judge's legalese is not a job for non-lawyers. Fortunately, judges usually send their questions in writing. A probate attorney can read the judge's questions, tell you what the court is getting at, and explain how to respond. Counsel also can review your response for legal accuracy and clarity. Concise communication with the court may speed the process significantly.
Taxes and Debts
Creditors and government agencies may have claims against an estate. One of the main reasons probate exists is to settle these claims. If an estate struggles to settle these claims, the government or creditors may sue. In extreme cases, this can result in the estate's bankruptcy. Settling claims promptly improves the odds that the beneficiaries will get as much of the estate as possible.
Finally, the estate has to distribute the remaining assets. Beneficiaries may want counsel to ensure fair accounting. Administrators will want a probate lawyer to reduce the risk of fiduciary claims.
Reach out to a local probate lawyer for more info.