The process of estate administration has caused many families to engage in bitter disputes. There are many ways in which a probate lawyer can help avoid these disputes and promote a fast, orderly process of administering the estate. Learn more about the ways a Chicago probate and estate administration lawyer from Malman Law can help your family throughout the process of estate administration.
Probate is the process of settling a person’s financial affairs after he or she dies. If there was a will, it is submitted to the probate court for acceptance. If not, the probate court must appoint an estate administrator and determine who is entitled to the estate assets. Every state has laws of intestacy. These laws dictate who is entitled to a person’s assets if he or she dies without a will. You can overcome these default rules by executing a will.
The probate process can cause family members to fight bitterly about what the decedent would have wanted. There might be challenges to the validity of the will. If there is no will, the family might disagree over what should be done with the remains, or who gets personal property that has sentimental value. Families can spend a lot of time and money fighting these battles in court.
A person can be the beneficiary of an estate if he or she is named in the will. A persona can also be a beneficiary by virtue of his or her relationship to the decedent. If, for example, a parent died without a will, the surviving children are presumed to be beneficiaries by law. Beneficiaries have a legal interest in the estate.
So how does a beneficiary protect this legal interest? The estate administrator is tasked with making the actual transfers of property. If he or she fails to do so, or if there are disputes about what transfers should be made to whom, a beneficiary can challenge this to the probate court. A probate attorney can help a beneficiary bring claims to the probate court. Beneficiaries have the right to hire their own probate lawyers. This is especially important when the decedent dies without a will, and the beneficiaries’ rights are not clearly spelled out in estate planning documents.
Estate administrators have certain rights and responsibilities. Some of these are created by law, and others might be clearly stated in the will. In either event, administrators can face liability for mistakes they make during the administration of an estate. By getting the advice of a probate lawyer, an estate administrator can protect him- or herself from liability, and determine the best method for resolving the decedent’s financial matters without disputes.
Estate administrators may also be entitled to compensation for their work. This can include reasonable expenses that are incurred in the administration of the estate (such as consultations with a tax professional) or compensation for the time spent on the probate process. A probate lawyer can help advise estate administrators about these rights and enforce their right to be compensated from the estate for these reasonable expenses.
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure. The best way to avoid probate disputes is to execute clear estate planning documents. If your wishes are known, it is likely that the court will enforce them. It is also less likely that your heirs or potential beneficiaries will be able to challenge them. This will prevent your estate assets from being depleted by costly litigation. It will also prevent the bitter resentment that often arises between family members during a probate challenge.
The more comprehensive your estate planning documents are, the less room there will be for misinterpretation. Your documents should cover all potential issues, including:
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