There are two different stages that you should take into consideration when you are considering the estate planning process and the steps that you can take to make things easier on your loved ones. Everyone is aware of the fact that you have to execute some type of legal document like a last will or a trust to state your final wishes.
If you work with a probate attorney to create a will, the court would supervise the estate administration process after you are gone. This process is the second phase, and you should address it when you are planning your estate if you want to leave behind a turnkey situation.
The executor or personal representative that you name in the will admits the document to probate, and there is a process called a proving of the will. During this process, the court makes sure that the will was validly executed.
In North Dakota where we practice law, the signing of a will must take place in the presence of two witnesses, and these witnesses must also sign the will. Notarization is not absolutely necessary, but it can speed up the probate process. You and the two witnesses could go to a notary to execute a self proving affidavit. If you include this document with the will, there would be no need for the court to contact witnesses for corroboration during the probate process.
If anyone wanted to challenge the will, an argument could be presented during probate. The acceptable grounds would be improper execution, coercion, fraud, or intimidation.
Creditors must be contacted during the probate process, and they are given a certain period of time to come forward seeking satisfaction. The executor or personal representative must take care of this, and final debts must be paid before the assets are distributed to the heirs that are named in the will. Final debts would include outstanding taxes.
Property that is contained within the estate will be identified by the executor, and an inventory will be conducted. This can sometimes be a bit complicated. In many cases, liquidation of property will be necessary, so appraisals can enter the picture.
Everything must be done in accordance with the laws of the state of North Dakota, and your executor may not have any experience working with the probate court, so this can be challenging.
When you start to gain an understanding of all of the legal and business oriented tasks that must be completed during the probate process, you can see that a family member or friend that you may choose as the executor may have a lot on his or her plate.
To be sure that things will run smoothly, you could retain the services of a probate attorney. In fact, when you work with an estate planning lawyer to draw up your will initially, you could arrange for that attorney to act as the probate attorney after you are gone.
In this manner, you could instruct the executor to contact your lawyer after you pass away. Since your attorney would have been the person who helped you devise the estate plan the first place, he or she would be uniquely qualified to guide the estate through probate after your passing.
Once you understand all of the facts with regard to estate administration and the probate process, you may see the value of a multi-generational relationship with a probate attorney. Your attorney will help you devise your plan, but he or she can also help the next generation, and in many cases, generations that will follow.
Along the way, the relationship will strengthen as your law firm gains a firm understanding of your family’s needs.
Learn More About Probate
If you have reached our website, you are starting to take the process of estate planning seriously. This is a very good thing because inaction can lead to serious difficulties later on.
We provide a steady stream of useful content on this blog, and we encourage you to visit often so that you can build on your knowledge. However, this is not the only source of information that you can find on our website.
Our site houses an electronic library of well researched, comprehensive, in-depth reports that cover many different estate planning and elder law topics. You can access any or all of these reports free of charge at any time.
One of the reports is dedicated to the probate process. To get your copy of the report, visit this page and follow the simple instructions: Free Probate Report.