Attorney, Daniel H. Alexander has over 20 years of experience in Estate Planning, Business Planning and Civil Litigation.
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Many people have heard of the probate, but most wonder what it is. Simply put, probate is the process the probate court uses to handle a decedent's estate and make sure the deceased person’s creditors are paid and that the deceased’s beneficiaries receive their share.
The probate process can be anything but simple, depending on the size and nature of the assets, the number of parties involved, how well the parties get along, and more. Complex probates are made worse by the fact that the family is mourning and under stress. The last thing most families want to deal with is probate.
The most common mistakes are:
1) Not communicating with the heirs. When you don't communicate others, they think the worst. It is crucial that all that are involved are on the same page so the estate can easily be handled. Keep them informed.
2) Not understanding the probate process. Probate has many specific hoops to jump through in a certain order and if you don't hire an attorney, you are likely to fail. Remember the Courts and the clerks cannot provide legal advice; they can simply tell you if you are doing it right or wrong.
3) Waiting too long to begin. As time passes, so does the information. Therefore, it is imperative to begin the Probate process right away while all the information is most available.
4) Not forwarding or picking up the decedent's mail. Ask the post office to forward all mail to your (the representative) address so you don't miss out on notices, statements and claims.
5) Failing to prepare an accurate inventory. The Personal Representative must account for everything and understand where and how those assets will be distributed to the heirs either under the Will or without a Will (intestate succession).
6) Failing to finish and close the Estate. The assets of the Estate are generally not to be distributed until the estate is finalized, an accounting completed and approved (or it's waived by the heirs) and a Petition for distribution is heard, and the order signed. Finally, the Personal Representative is not relieved of liability until the Court discharges you, which is done once the Estate is distributed and an Ex Parte Petition is filed.