Attorney Answering Your Probate Questions

What Is Probate?

Probate concerns the transference of property from an estate to the proper beneficiaries. When a valid will is in place, distribution of the estate is governed by language of the will. When no will is in place, distribution is accomplished by laws of intestate succession in the state in which you reside.

Probate also concerns payment of estate debts and taxes. The estate personal representative or executor often is responsible for paying such expenses from the proceeds of the estate.

A probate judge will preside in a formal administrative matter often where disputes exist. Informal probate matters are less expensive and may not involve a court appearance.

Is Probate Time Consuming?

The length of time a probate matter will take varies from case to case. It may depend upon whether a personal representative is necessary, whether there are disputes, and whether a valid and clearly-written will is in place. Probate cases can be complete in less than six weeks in certain circumstances, and up to six months in more complicated matters.

Who Oversees The Probate Process?

When a valid will exists, a personal representative is named in the will to oversee the probating of the estate. Otherwise, the court will appoint the personal representative.

What Are The Duties Of A Personal Representative?

The personal representative is responsible for:

  • Organizing and collecting the decedent's assets
  • Helping manage the estate assets throughout the probate process
  • Paying of estate expenses, debts and taxes
  • Distributing the estate according to the will, court order and state law

Is Probate Expensive?

How expensive a probate matter is largely is dependent upon how complex the matter will be. The major cost will likely involve necessary court expenses. This is especially true regarding probate disputes. It may also be necessary to reimburse the personal representative for services and expenses.

Other expenses are dependent upon the individual circumstances of your matter. Please speak to an attorney to learn about all of the expenses that may come due.

Is Probate Necessary?

Whether probate is or is not necessary depends upon individual circumstances. In some instances assets will not have to go through probate because of the existence of trusts and other estate planning tools. Living trusts sometimes serve the purpose of shielding assets from probate, but this is governed by a large number of legal considerations. In some instances, property can be deeded over to your beneficiaries before you die.

However, use of these can be legally complex, and you may wish to consult with a lawyer before putting any plan of action into place in an attempt to avoid probate. Mistakes could result in tremendous expense.

There are instances when probate is unavoidable. This is particularly true if there are disputes over the will, language of the will is unclear, or if no valid will exists. In such instances a probate court will step in to clarify how distribution of the estate should proceed.

Should I Prepare A Will?

A will serves a number of purposes. A will puts into writing how you wish distribution of your estate occur after you die. Without a valid will, decisions regarding distribution may be by court order rather than by your own personal preference.

Besides distribution of property, a will can also provide recommendations regarding the appointment of a guardian for a child. It can also alert beneficiaries of the estate regarding the existence of all assets. A well-written will can prevent disputes from arising over your estate and prevent needless and time-consuming litigation.

Should I Prepare A Trust?

Sometimes individuals put property or assets into a trust to hold for the benefit of another individual. Depending upon the law of your state, property in the trust may not need to go through probate. However, the law regarding assets that can be shielded by trusts is strict. Therefore, it is important to discuss such matters with an experienced probate attorney.

Do I Need An Attorney Regarding My Probate Matter?

While seemingly straightforward, the management of probate and estate litigation matters can often prove to be extremely complex. It requires care and close attention to detail. These areas of law are highly regulated and concern meeting a variety of deadlines. Mistakes can result in incorrect distribution of assets from the estate. It can result in expense and unnecessary tax consequences. Probate disputes ultimately can also result in litigation of challenging and contentious legal issues.

At Salvatore DePinto, Attorney at Law, in Hamilton, New Jersey, we have extensive experience working with individuals and families in resolving estate litigation, estate accounting disputes and probate matters. We are familiar with the basics of probate, and regularly prepare and provide guidance concerning wills and trusts.

Contact A Knowledgeable Probate Attorney

To learn more about the probate services we can provide for you or to arrange for a free consultation with a lawyer, contact Salvatore DePinto, Attorney at Law, by calling 609-807-8942.