Common Probate Mistakes

Probate is the legal process in which a will is proved valid in court. If you were named the executor of someone’s estate, you’re responsible for finding the deceased’s assets, paying debts and taxes and transferring the assets to the intended beneficiaries. The process can seem daunting and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed. However, it’s important to plan ahead and avoid making mistakes that cost time and money.

Here are several common probate mistakes:

Procrastinating
When you’re dealing with the death of a loved one, figuring out legal processes can be especially difficult. However, that doesn’t mean you should put off probating an estate. The majority of states have specific timeframes for in which the estate administration process has to be completed. If you miss the deadline, you could cost the estate extra money in taxes and other fees. It’s okay to take some time to grieve, but don’t wait too long to begin the probate process.

Failing to Communicate with Beneficiaries
It’s not a secret that the probate process can take a while to complete. All that waiting around can make some of the beneficiaries anxious. They may wonder when they’ll receive their assets. That’s why it’s essential to maintain constant communication with the beneficiaries. Try to give them updates every week, even if nothing has changed. Keeping the beneficiaries informed can help avoid any misunderstandings down the road.

Not Recognizing Non-Probate Assets
Not all assets are required to go through the probate process. Certain assets, like jointly held property and trust assets, can be distributed immediately after the descendant’s death. Failing to recognize non-probate assets can make the probate process drag on longer.

Not Maintaining Real Estate
Maintaining any real property the descendant owned is one of your major responsibilities. Keep the utilities on, ensure the property is insured and consider changing the locks. If the property gets damaged, you could be liable for it.

Failing to Hire a Probate Lawyer
As an executor, you’re not required by law to hire a lawyer to guide you through that probate process. However, working with an experienced probate lawyer is highly suggested. The probate process can be quite complicated, and a skilled lawyer can help you avoid costly mistakes. A reputable probate lawyer will help you through the entire process and take a lot of stress off your back. Before hiring a probate lawyer, ask him or her several questions, such as how many estates he or she has probated and how long he or she will take to finish the probate process.

If you need assistance probating an estate, consult with a reputable probate lawyer, like a probate attorney in Phoneix, AZ, as soon as possible. He or she can assess the entire estate and advise you on how to proceed.

Thank you to the experts at Kamper Estrada, LLP, for their insight into probate law.