Estate planning is something that the average person is not going to spend a lot of time researching, and at the risk of sounding flippant the reality is that we only die once. So, people generally don’t have much experience negotiating their way through these waters. Because of this, many people don’t understand the fact that your last will is not going to be passed around among your family members and then discarded. When you use a last will to transfer assets it must go through the legal process of probate.
During this interim the probate or surrogate court determines the validity of the will and supervises the administration of the estate. When you are drawing up your will you should name an executor, and the executor does the actual hands-on tasking that is necessary to make sure that your wishes are carried out.
This can include more than simply slicing up pieces of a ready-made pie and handing them out to your loved ones. If there are any outstanding taxes, debts or claims against the estate these must be addressed. It should also be mentioned that if anyone wanted to contest the will, they would do so before the probate or surrogate court.
In addition, the executor must inventory the assets and prepare them for distribution to your heirs in accordance with your wishes. This can involve bringing in appraisers and estate liquidation concerns, and most laypeople who agree to serve as executors don’t have these types of professionals in their contacts list.
All of the above is greatly simplified when the executor retains the services of a probate attorney, and the ideal scenario is when this attorney is the same individual who originally drew up the will. Probate can be a complex legal matter, and to put it bluntly, all legal situations that play themselves out before the court are best addressed with the appropriate representation.
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