With regard to estate planning, when individuals fail to plan, they plan to fail. When someone dies, his or her assets automatically become part of the estate, which is then distributed according to the decedent’s will.
Probate is the system through which a court determines whether a will is legally valid before the inheritances it covers can be given out. The probate process encompasses more than just proving the validity of a will. It includes the entire administrative process, including determination of the decedent’s total assets, paying debts, liabilities and taxes — and the distribution of remaining assets to beneficiaries. In effect, probate is the process that enables the beneficiaries to receive property that is rightfully theirs.
However, if no will is left, state law determines the relatives who should receive the assets. Structuring financial affairs with the assistance of an estate planning attorney will help avoid probate costs. The administration of an estate is a technical process that requires strong legal knowledge as well as the consideration of possibly complex family dynamics.
It’s wise to hire a skilled and effective estate planning attorney to help before running into any legal issues, such as the scenarios listed here:
Please be aware of the fact that estate litigation is common and may arise. It’s one of the fastest growing areas of the law. Once the assets in a will are made known, creditors, tax collectors, heirs, and other parties may suddenly want to have a say in the way the funds of the deceased are disbursed.
Contested wills oftentimes create a legal issue. The interpretation of wills is a very intricate and complex area of law. A will can be opposed or contested on the grounds that the document is void due to the incapacity of the testator at the time the will was made; the failure to comply with the formalities required by law, or any matter sufficient may show the nonexistence of a valid will.
Guardianship challenges may occur as well. Conflicts over the care of minor children, or, in some cases, legal wards of the deceased, are some of the most emotional disputes that can occur during probate.
Jim Ward is an experienced estate planning attorney with offices in San Jose and the South Bay area. If you are an executor of an estate, or simply have questions about how probate works, seek knowledgeable legal counsel from Jim today.