Getting Through The Probate Process More Effectively

A gavel lying on top of a brown envelope; the front page of a document peeking out of the envelope is labeled “Probate.”

Getting Through The Probate Process More Effectively

When a person passes away, a legal procedure, known as probate, typically begins soon afterward. Assuming the individual left behind a Last Will and Testament, the probate process will validate and administer that individual’s will. However, probate also occurs when the decedent has no estate planning documentation; in these cases, the final estate administration will be conducted according to the intestacy laws of the state in which the decedent was a legal resident at the time of their death. The probate procedure can be lengthy and expensive, but following a few key steps can help to speed up probate and, therefore, help ensure a decedent’s beneficiaries receive the maximum amount of the assets left to them as expeditiously as possible. Explore effective ways of navigating the probate process and discover how a Florida estate planning and probate attorney can be of assistance by calling Loughlin Law, P.A. at (561) 677-8384.

Probate Explained

Per the American Bar Association (ABA), probate refers to the official legal procedure whereby the probate court recognizes a deceased person’s will and appoints an executor or personal representative, who then distributes the decedent’s assets according to the will’s terms, minus any liabilities. If there is no will, the probate procedure entails appointing an administrator, paying any outstanding debts using the estate’s assets, and then distributing the remaining assets to the deceased individual’s heirs.

In Florida, according to the Florida Courts, two main kinds of probate exist: summary and formal. Only certain assets, known as probate assets, are subject to these proceedings, which encompass the assets solely owned by the decedent at the time of their death, alongside co-owned assets that do not have a provision in place to automatically transfer ownership when one of the joint owners dies. Examples of probate assets are as follows:

  • Investment or bank accounts
  • Retirement accounts, annuity contracts, or life insurance policies
  • Real estate

What Are the Three Disadvantages of the Probate Process?

The three primary drawbacks associated with probate include cost, the length of the procedure, and its intrusive nature. Below is more information concerning these probate disadvantages.

Cost of Probate

Probate entails numerous costs, often including personal representative, attorney, and accounting fees, as well as bonds and court costs, all of which contribute toward what can be an expensive legal process. Depending on the value of the decedent’s estate, probate costs could ultimately cost thousands of dollars, especially if there is no will, as intestate administration tends to lengthen the procedure.

Length of Probate

Probate proceedings typically take several months to complete. When one or more of the parties who stand to inherit from the estate contest the probate procedure, this legal process could require multiple years to finalize. Probate also becomes much more expensive the longer it lasts, in part because the associated legal fees are frequently charged by the hour.

Lack of Privacy

Due to the public nature of probate proceedings, the process can lead to a distressing lack of privacy for the decedent’s family. Probate often requires the revealing of private financial documentation, such as real estate holdings, investments, and savings. Moreover, probate potentially invites creditors and unhappy relatives to make their own claims on the deceased person’s estate, reducing the amount of assets left to the beneficiaries.

Understand more regarding the methods for successfully getting through the probate process and explore the legal options available for individuals wishing to plan their estates by getting in touch with a seasoned Florida probate attorney from Loughlin Law, P.A.

What Is an Advantage of the Probate Process?

Probate has several benefits, with one of the main ones being that it enables parties to challenge any claims made by creditors. This is particularly useful for family members of the deceased who believe that someone might be wrongfully claiming outstanding financial obligations , as the opportunity to challenge provides a “checkpoint” against fraudulent claims and unnecessary payments.

What Are the Negatives of Probate?

Probate attorneys are often asked, “Why do some dislike the probate process?” One key drawback of probate is its complexity, particularly if the parties involved have not encountered this procedure before.

Probate’s convoluted nature can sometimes make this a stressful experience for the decedent’s executor and the estate’s beneficiaries, especially in cases of large estates with many types of assets, or in situations where the decedent’s surviving family members have contentious relationships. That said, if the deceased individual’s estate is relatively small, involving assets that the executor can liquidate easily, and the decedent’s beneficiaries have an amicable relationship, the probate procedure could be quite straightforward.

What Slows Down Probate?

Here are some of the factors that might slow down probate, alongside some strategies for speeding up the process:

  • Paperwork: Probate entails significant work in documentation, and sending in the appropriate documents promptly and correctly could help mitigate delays. While it is not possible for estate executors or personal representatives to avoid all mistakes concerning probate paperwork, such as the probate court misplacing or misfiling documents, or the mail service losing key court papers, individuals can often reduce the chances of the delays associated with probate paperwork by thoroughly reviewing all documentation before filing.
  • Beneficiary disagreements: Arguments among family members and challenges to the will can contribute significantly to probate delays, stagnating probate proceedings for months or even years if litigation is necessary. Attempting to settle family differences without going to court can help shorten the length of the probate procedure.
  • Will complexity: Common will complications that result in probate delays are the existence of multiple wills, which can cause confusion regarding validity, and poorly constructed clauses or instructions. The most effective way of avoiding these issues entails crafting a clear and concise will and consolidating any provisions from earlier versions of the will into a single document.
  • Asset difficulties: Some assets, particularly unique items such as antiques, can be more challenging to value than those with an established and readily recognized financial equivalent; common examples in the latter category include stocks and savings. The valuation of assets without a clearly established monetary value might slow the progress of probate proceedings. Certain parties could disagree about an asset’s value, including family members and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for tax reasons, and assets based in different states could be subject to different probate laws, requiring separate probate proceedings that take more time to conclude. Other parts of a decedent’s estate could also be difficult to share among multiple beneficiaries, such as business holdings and real estate. An experienced estate planning attorney may be able to recommend asset valuation services to help resolve these types of disputes.

Contact a Florida Estate Planning and Probate Attorney Today

The longer the probate procedure lasts, the more costly it becomes. Expenses could include administration costs, court fees, and hourly professional service fees. One of the primary ways of navigating probate more effectively and enabling the orderly distribution of assets entails establishing a will that the probate court is likely to easily authenticate. Learn more about how to speed up the probate process and see how a Florida estate planning attorney from Loughlin Law P.A. can aid clients with their legal issues by calling (561) 677-8384.

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