If you are planning to establish a will to determine what happens to your assets when you pass on, it’s essential that you get the facts on probate. This is the critical legal step whereby the courts authenticate the deceased’s will and grant the executor authority to carry out its specifications. Probate law governs this process.
What the Probate Process Entails
First, the courts confirm that the will is valid—for instance, by checking that it has the required number of witness signatures. The courts also confirm the executor of the estate, usually a friend, family member, or lawyer named in the will. This person notifies beneficiaries of what is left to them and will also oversee the distribution of assets.
Before this can be done, however, the courts review the inventory of assets held in the estate. Any applicable estate taxes need to be paid, as well as any related debts. Finally, after all this is complete, the probate courts allow the deceased’s wishes to be carried out.
How Probate Law Affects You
Probate affects any person who drafts a will, as well as the beneficiaries it names. Unfortunately, the process itself can be costly. Estate taxes, as well as administrative fees—for instance, to pay the executor—are usually taken out of the estate itself. This can detract from what beneficiaries receive.
Another drawback of the probate process is that it can be time-consuming. A will is publicly accessible, so anyone can check to see “who gets what.” This can occasionally lead to disputes. If an individual contests the will, the process can drag out even longer.
To ensure a will is executed efficiently and with minimal loss of estate value, have it drafted by an attorney. Choose someone who is familiar with your state’s probate laws; for instance, the number of signatures needed for a will to be legal varies between states. Your attorney can ensure the will is correctly drafted and legally binding.
For help with probate law issues in Kalispell, MT, trust Scott Hamilton Attorney at Law. With over 25 years of experience, this lawyer is known for his compassionate approach and the honest counsel he provides his clients. Find out more about his work in wills and estate planning online. For an appointment, call (406) 257-3036.