6 Probate Mistakes to Avoid
When a family member passes away, we are left grieving and might be confused about what comes next. In certain countries and states, a deceased person’s property is considered an asset that is part of an estate, and upon their death, their estate enters the probate process. But what is Probate?
The legal process of collecting and settling the estate of a deceased person (decedent) and distributing it to the decedent’s heirs is known as Probate. If an estate plan is in place, the assets that make up the decedent’s estate are usually distributed according to the will or plan set out by the decedent.
Not all countries or states require Probate, but those that do have their own distinct set of laws that you must follow to maximize the estate’s assets and ensure that the estate is distributed according to the decedent’s wishes. Since the probate process can be complicated and time-consuming, there are a number of things that can go wrong and mistakes that our attorneys can help you avoid.
Here are six probate mistakes to try and avoid:
- Having an unqualified executor.
In some states, like Florida, a Personal Representative (PR) must be either a resident of the state or related (by blood or marriage) to the decedent in order to execute their will. Having an unqualified PR as your executor can be costly and complicate the probate process.
- Delaying the probate process.
Each state has different internal deadlines for probate proceedings, and having an executor who delays the start of this process can lead to costly complications. Failure to meet these state deadlines can result in fines or difficulties dividing the decedent’s property, further complicating the probate process.
To prevent these delays from unqualified executors, it’s strongly recommended that individuals hire an experienced probate attorney with vast knowledge of state deadlines and requirements. Having an expert attorney efficiently navigate the probate process will not only give you and your descendants peace of mind but will prevent any additional costs of incursions during the complex process.
- Incorrectly assessing the estate’s size and value.
Ensuring the executor has a comprehensive list of the decedent’s estate subject to Probate is essential to determine the size and value and whether. This can assist the executor in excluding non-probate assets (e.g., trust property) and concentrate on probate property.
After gathering the list, it’s time to assess each asset’s value. This process is complex since some assets don’t have a straightforward or concrete value as others. For instance, bank accounts have a clear value, but things like a car, boat, or property–regardless of residential or commercial– can be harder to determine by your executor. Luckily, with the help of your probate attorney, you can minimize mistakes like miscalculating estate size and undervaluing assets.
- Neglecting or improperly paying debts and taxes.
In order to secure the estate, it is crucial that debts and taxes be paid in the proper order. It’s important to note that not all creditors’ claims are equally important, and state laws outline which debts and taxes take precedence, when they should be paid, and in what order.
- Not creating a plan to avoid Probate.
Some states, including Florida, allow you to create an estate plan to avoid the probate process altogether. Putting money in a trust, sharing ownership of a property or asset, or naming beneficiaries are some ways to avoid Probate, protect your legacy, and set up your heirs for success.
- Failing to update the estate plan.
We know that estate planning is a complex and sometimes tedious process, but not updating your will or estate plan after a major life event or big purchase is a big mistake you can avoid. It’s strongly recommended that you review beneficiaries, executors, and other details in your estate plan every so often to avoid any conflict, lost assets, and other problems that could come after your passing.
Dealing with the Probate process doesn’t have to be a headache. At Easy Estate Probate, our experienced probate attorneys are here to help you create an estate plan, go through probate process runs as smoothly as possible, or avoid probate proceedings entirely.
If you or someone you know has probate or estate planning needs, we’re here to help. Click here for a FREE consultation.