Your mother’s death was not unexpected. Still, you and the rest of your family are overcome with grief. But, now, it is time to settle her estate. Thankfully, she was prepared by discussing her estate plan, going over the will with you and letting you know where it was stored. Compared with some people going through similar matters, you have a leg up on them.
Now, it is time to settle her estate. This is where the probate process comes into play as a critical aspect of estate administration. During probate, reviewing and validating the will takes place, and, eventually, settlement of the estate occurs. The whole process may take several months and even up to a year.
How an attorney helps
An attorney plays a pivotal role in the probate process. Since many family members may have little or no experience with probate, they turn to a trusted and knowledgeable legal ally. Typically, attorneys provide crucial insight to executors, estate representatives and beneficiaries. Here are some of the key aspects of the probate process in which your attorney provides guidance:
- Authenticating the will. The judge determines whether the legal document is valid. For example, the decedent and two witnesses must have signatures on the will.
- The appointment of an executor if the decedent neglected to name one.
- Completing an inventory of the decedent’s property. This is a task assigned to the executor, who receives assistance from his or her attorney as well as the judge.
- Determining the value of the decedent’s estate by reviewing all assets.
- Paying off all outstanding bills and taxes owed by the decedent’s estate.
- Settling disagreements among beneficiaries who may dispute aspects of the will.
- Distributing any remaining assets among the beneficiaries and heirs.
The probate process is not an intimidating one but can be time-consuming. This is where patience can help, and so can the guidance of a skilled attorney.