When a beloved family member dies, the grief and sense of loss can feel overwhelming. You find it difficult to think of anything other than how you’ll live without his presence, love, and influence. However, you must tackle the task of distributing his possessions as he desired. Whether he left a will at his death or died without one, you’ll need to contact an attorney to help guide you through the often confusing path of probate law.
The probate process, in its simplest terms, refers to the procedure a state probate court follows to identify and distribute the assets of your loved one and pay any outstanding debts. In practical terms, it means that a probate attorney will help you determine which of your family member’s assets should be distributed and which assets have already been assigned. A bank account your loved one held in his name only, for example, will become a part of the probate process while a life insurance policy that names a beneficiary who is still living will not.
There are a number of misconceptions surrounding the probate process, particularly in cases where your family member dies without a will. You may fear the state will take all of your loved one’s possessions, but that isn’t accurate. Laws enacted by the state determine how your family member’s assets and property will be divided, based on a generally accepted standard will.
A straightforward probate case can take about six months to complete, while more complicated cases will require more time. However, it’s likely that all of your loved one’s assets won’t be unavailable for that entire time. As assets are verified, they can often be distributed while the probate case is still ongoing.
In many cases today, families can avoid the probate process entirely. By placing assets in trusts and naming beneficiaries now, your loved one can take steps to ensure that his assets are distributed as he wishes upon his death. You need an experienced attorney to help you accomplish this. For almost 20 years, Elaine Schwartz has practiced Elder Law. She is committed to helping the elderly residents of the state plan financially for death so that, whenever possible, the grieving families will not need to endure the drawn-out process of probate. Making plans now with Elaine Schwartz’s help will be the best action you and your loved one can take.