Tricks to Fast Track Probate Proceedings

Probate proceedings for some estates might last several months or even years. Unfortunately, you don’t want this, do you?

You want the inheritance to be passed on to the beneficiaries as soon as possible. If you are a beneficiary, you do not want to be stuck in a scenario where you cannot get the assets. While this process is often slow, there are several things you can do to speed it up.

These things include:

Work with an experienced wills and probate attorney

Hiring a qualified probate lawyer can be the difference between a simple and swift probate process and one fraught with frustration and delays.

Work with an attorney who will speed up the process and help you obtain probate within a few weeks. An experienced attorney will direct you in the right direction, and help you make the right decisions.

Many people make the mistake of wanting to save money by doing everything by themselves. This is wrong.

The right thing to do is to work with an experienced professional who will point you in the right direction and help you save time and headaches.

Find out the debtors and creditors as soon as possible

If you are the executor of an estate, one of your responsibilities is to swiftly identify the deceased’s creditors and debts. The most obvious bills and expenses that you, as the Executor, must pay before distributing the legacy to the recipients are IRAs and credit card companies.

Once you acquire probate, you should pay them as soon as possible.

Take charge

If you are the executor or administrator of the estate, only you should interact with your probate counsel. Do not let family members or beneficiaries dictate to the probate lawyer what to do.

Remember that probate lawyers can only accept directions from the executor or administrator. If other family members insist on having a say, your probate lawyer has the right to discharge himself, especially if there are contradicting instructions and competing demands.

If you are not in command and allow everyone else to have their opinion, there will undoubtedly be a delay that you are trying to avoid.

File estate tax as early as possible

If the Internal Revenue Service Form 706 must be completed, the IRS will normally take at least six months to complete their evaluation, which does not include any time required to fix errors on the form.

You can close probate sooner if the personal representative gathers the information needed to complete Form 706 early in the probate procedure. The personal representative must verify that Form 706 is accurately completed and sent to the IRS.

Even if an estate is not obliged to submit the Form, it may need to file a state estate tax or inheritance tax return.

To avoid delays, you should file as soon as possible. If you are confused about how to go about it, get the input of your attorney or any other professional.

Pay attention to the unusual assets.

Certain types of difficult-to-value property may cause probate to be delayed. These assets may include:

  • Collectables
  • Complicated property or business rights.
  • Patents and other intellectual property
  • Extremely illiquid property

In such a scenario, you need to keep your attorney close to you to ensure that these assets do not prolong the probate process. The attorney will analyze the assets and determine how they will be dispersed or disposed of.

Separate the estate money.

As the Executor or Administrator, you must separate the estate funds from your funds. The right way to do it is to open a separate bank account and avoid combining estate and personal funds.

Remember that the beneficiaries are entitled to a thorough record of the executor’s activities. Having a separate estate account and accounting for estate funds will help the probate process move more quickly.

This is because you won’t need to explain many things. The beneficiaries will also have a better understanding of what is going on, and as a result, they won’t need to raise many issues.

Prepare your schedule of assets.

The Schedule of Assets is one of the most important documents you must fill in the Family Justice Court before the grant of probate or letter of administration is issued.

To save time, determine the deceased’s assets and assign a value to them. As part of the administration process, you should file the Schedule of Assets with the probate court.

If you are the estate’s executor or administrator, your probate lawyer will need a list of assets and a valuation of personal effects, real estate, or other assets.

You should provide your probate lawyer with copies of bank statements, title deeds, and insurance policies.

By doing this, you will fasten the process and have an easy time going through the process.

Get a court permission if necessary.

If probate beneficiaries do not get along or speak to one other, work with your probate attorney Largo and seek court authorization to proceed with the probate process.

By presenting files to the court as soon as possible and attending court as necessary, you increase the chances of completing the process on schedule.

The last thing you want is to bring together the beneficiaries so that they can agree on the contentious issues. When you do this, there is a chance that the process will take too long, and the beneficiaries might even disagree, dragging the process for years.

Parting shot

These are some tricks you can use to speed up the probate process. As mentioned, always work with an experienced attorney who knows what they are doing.

You should also research and find the necessary documents so that you can obtain them as soon as possible. It will even be better if you can get them before you start the process.

In some cases, you will find the beneficiaries don’t agree on some contentious issues. To speed up the process,don’t try to make them agree or make peace. Instead, get a court order to proceed with the probate process.

Reasons to Update Your Will

Have you already completed your estate planning? Perhaps you’ve completed your last will and Trust? Great! You are already ahead of the pack!

But when did you do this? Do you know when you should examine your Estate Planning paperwork and, if necessary, make adjustments or revisions to your Will?

Its recommended that you find a wills and trust attorney every four or five years and update your will. It’s also highly recommended that you amend your will after each big life event that impacts the course of your life, whether for the better or worse.

Some of the reasons to revise your will include:

Change in marital status

If you were married, you may have named your spouse as a beneficiary in your will. You should revise your will in the event of a divorce, wedding, or death. It is vital to remember that stepchildren are not legally entitled to your property, so keep this in mind when updating your documentation.

You are having health challenges.

Health changes can have an impact on your will. If you have been diagnosed with a degenerative condition or a life-threatening sickness, it is in your best interests to use this time to adjust the Will to your wishes.

Furthermore, any additions you had planned prior to your diagnosis should be implemented as quickly as possible.

Changes in your finances

This is another significant event that influences your will. A rise in wealth can push you into a higher tax category and result in greater taxes. In addition, you may want to raise the amount of money you leave for your beneficiaries.

In contrast, your financial circumstances may worsen, and you may be unable to contribute the amount you expected. At this stage, you must make changes to your will.

You change your mind about a beneficiary.

It is reasonable to change your mind and thoughts regarding the persons or organizations named as beneficiaries in your will, possibly owing to disagreements after you signed your will or for other causes, good or negative.

Remember, it is your money, and you have the right to change your mind about who receives the cash after your death.

If you feel that the beneficiary you mentioned in your will isn’t the right one, you should consider updating your will and having a new beneficiary.

You want to update estate laws.

Laws affecting estate taxes can and do change over time. When this happens, you should amend your will to reflect any relevant changes when they occur. Consult your wills lawyer to stay up to date on estate rules and how they affect you.

Your beneficiary or executor has died.

If your named executor or beneficiary dies, you must update the information to name a new executor or a different recipient for the asset or property.

Even if your will includes provisions for such occurrences, you may want to consider amending it.

To change the executor, you need to draft an addendum, which is a written amendment that modifies your Will. Make sure you understand your state’s laws so your codicil is valid. The number of witnesses and whether or not a notary is required varies by state.

How much does it cost to amend a will?

The cost of amending a Will varies depending on several things. Did you intend to hire a lawyer, or do you prefer to handle it yourself? How complex are the changes? Which state do you live in?

You should address these questions to accurately estimate the expense of changing a will.

Lawyers can charge a wide range of fees based on your location and other factors. Of course, it is possible to make modifications entirely on your own, but many people are hesitant to do so, fearing that they will not have done everything necessary to ensure the validity of their new will.

Can you make handwritten changes to a will?

Technically, you can make handwritten amendments to your Will. However, different states have different regulations governing how and when this is permitted, so you should proceed with caution.

Family members can easily challenge handwritten modifications in Wills, so if you want your Will and any amendments to be as strong as possible, avoid making handwritten alterations.

Can you make your will null and void?

Yes, you can do it, and there are a number of ways to go about it. Making a new Will or adding a codicil renders your prior one null and void. Of course, you could take drastic measures such as destroying all original copies or selling, giving away, or otherwise disposing of assets listed in the Will.

What next after updating your will?

Even after you’ve modified your will, you must ensure that you have the necessary signatures and witnesses to comply with state law.

You may need to get your Will notarized, and you should keep it somewhere safe. Make sure someone you trust knows where your will and other estate planning paperwork are.

Parting shot

It is a good idea to examine all of your Estate Planning documents periodically. Knowing what you need to do to update your Will (and when to do it) is critical.

Whether you’ve only had one major life event or you haven’t revisited your Will in years and a lot has happened, keeping your Will up to date is an important component of protecting your family when you die.

You should take your time when preparing and updating the will and ensure that you capture all the relevant information.

As mentioned, you should make it a habit to update your Will every 4-5 years or when there is a major life event.

To have an easy time, work with an experienced probate attorney Largo who will not only help you put the will together but also let you know when things aren’t going as planned.

How Do You Get Around Probate Court?

Probate court, which legalizes a dead person’s will and distributes assets, is sometimes considered cumbersome. Many people want to find ways to simplify the estate settlement process and reduce intervention by a probate court.

Though probate performs an extremely important function of ensuring that assets are distributed smoothly, it is not unusual for people to look into other means–to avoid possible disadvantages. In the following article, we’ll look at several ways you can use to get around probate court together with your probate lawyer.

Understanding Probate

Probate refers to the court-supervised procedure by which a deceased person’s will is verified and their property distributed.

Steps involved in probate court

1.       Filing a petition

The procedure normally starts with the filing of a petition in probate court. This petition can be submitted by the executor designated in the will or an interested party, such as a family member or creditor.

2.       Appointment of executor or administrator

Upon review by the court, a valid will name an executor. If no one is named or if the person appointed, for any reason, refuses to serve, a court will appoint an administrator. The executor or administrator controls the estate of the deceased right through probate.

3.       Notifying creditors and heirs

Probate proceedings must be notified to creditors and heirs of the deceased. The process usually involves publishing a notice in a local newspaper and formal notification to known creditors or beneficiaries.

4.       Inventory and appraisal of assets

Moreover, the executor must also establish an inventory of all assets belonging to the deceased person (real property as well as bank accounts and investments), personal belongings, and other valuable things such as heirlooms. In some cases, a professional appraiser will be taken on to set the value of various assets.

5.       Payment of debts and taxes

The estate’s debts and taxes must be paid off before any assets can go to heirs. It means paying off outstanding bills, funeral costs, and any estate or inheritance taxes payable. The executor takes care of these financial responsibilities.

6.       Challenging the will (if applicable)

The will may be contested. The main reasons a will is contested are lack of capacity, undue influence or fraud in making it, and improper execution. Will contests can delay probate?

7.       Distribution of assets

After the debts, taxes, and other charges have been paid out of them, these assets are distributed to one or more beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of a will (where there is one), otherwise according to intestacy legislation.

8.       Final accounting and closing of the estate

The executor has to give the court a final accounting of assets, liabilities, and distributions regarding the estate. After the court approves the final accounting, it issues a closing order for the estate. With that, there ends the probate process.

9.       Distribution of inheritance

After receiving court approval, the executor can pass on to beneficiaries and heirs any remaining assets as laid out by law in the will or according to intestacy laws.

10.       Final discharge of executor

When all necessary tasks have been accomplished and court approval received, the executor is formally discharged from their responsibilities. This completes the probate procedure.

How to bypass probate court

Establish a living trust.

Living trusts are a good way to avoid probate court. A living trust is a legal entity that holds assets for an individual during his or her lifetime and then transfers them to beneficiaries at death. 

In contrast to a will, which must be probated in the event of your death and passed through various legal channels before assets can finally get distributed, a living trust functions independently of court.

Establishing a living trust entails transferring ownership of assets to it, with oneself as the initial trustee. Choosing a successor trustee ensures the smooth changing of hands. Because the trust owns all assets, probate court participation is reduced. Estate settlement, therefore, progresses more smoothly and at a lower cost.

Joint ownership with right of survivorship

Joint ownership with the right of survivorship is another way to avoid probate. This includes taking out assets jointly as one’s spouse, parents, or another individual so the surviving co-owner can inherit the asset. 

Joint ownership is a simple way to avoid probate, but factors such as quarrels between joint owners or unexpected consequences should be considered. Also, this method is unsuitable for all sorts of assets, and legal advice should be sought on the proper titling of those acquired.

Designating beneficiaries

A number of assets, including life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and bank accounts, can be left to beneficiaries. These assets can be passed directly to the designated beneficiaries by naming specific individuals or entities as recipients. 

This simple procedure means that assets can be distributed more rapidly. It is also a strategy often used to simplify the estate settlement process. Regularly reviewing and updating beneficiary designations is very important after major life events such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of children.

Keeping beneficiary designations up to date is an important part of the proactive estate plan. Otherwise, there may be unintended consequences.

Small estate procedures

In certain jurisdictions, estates of modest value may be subject to abbreviated probate processes called “small estate” or “summary administration.” These simplify the procedures for small estates below a predetermined asset cutoff.

They result in speedier disposal and less paperwork.

The estate generally must meet certain criteria to qualify for small-estate procedures, which include a low total asset value and no contested claims. That said, executors or administrators can use these procedures advantageously in probating estates as long as they understand the eligibility requirements and rules that apply to them at any given time.

Conclusion

Even though probate plays an important role in maintaining the orderly distribution of assets, it is not necessary.

Through methods such as studying living trusts, joint ownership arrangements, beneficiary designations, and small estate procedures are highly effective, you should note that the effectiveness of the process would depend on the particular case in question, and a professional legal opinion from a reputable probate attorney PG County is always called for when planning estates.

Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid

It might be tough to place a monetary value on a lifetime of collecting your money, your home, its furnishings, vacation souvenirs, and treasured family gifts. It’s fun to acquire these artefacts over time, but too few people think about what will happen to them when they’re gone.

You should consider everything from your life savings to digital assets during estate planning.

While a trained professional can help guide you through the procedure, people still make plenty of mistakes.

Here are some of the common mistakes and what you should do instead to ensure the estate planning process is a smooth one for all concerned:

Forgetting to implement the estate plan

One of the most common mistakes people make in estate planning is generating estate planning paperwork but then failing to implement their estate plan.

To stay safe, create, implement and monitor the estate planning documents. Work with an established estate planning attorney to ensure the process is going as planned. As part of the estate planning process, provide copies of your documents to trustworthy loved ones.

The last thing you want is for the paperwork to get lost.

Thinking you have a lot of time

The most common error people make is believing that death only happens to other people. They don’t take their mortality seriously, or they wait until it’s too late to arrange for their loved ones.

A good way to go about it is to consider what arrangements you have in place for your legacy, consider the significance of it, and read some basic literature on the subject.

If you have the resources to acquire a burial plot and make funeral arrangements, include that information in your estate documents.

Don’t leave it up to your children to find such knowledge. If you have not already done so, you should include your wishes in your will or trust. If you do not do this, your family will have a lot to hash out after your death.

Make a point person responsible for funeral and burial arrangements and ensure that person understands your intentions. If you do not make out your wishes before your death, it may become an issue that must be resolved in probate court, which could severely delay your burial.

Ignoring the tax implications

Death and taxes are unavoidable, but taxes after death are. As kind as it may appear to be to give property to your heirs during your lifetime, it is usually smarter – and far more generous – to postpone the transfer until after your death.

If you transfer the deed to your next of kin before you die, they may face a significant tax bill if they sell the same property.

This is because the basis for that house, ranch, or condo will be tied to your purchase date, not the date of your gift.

As a result, your heirs may be forced to pay a colossal sum that could have been avoided had they been issued the deed after your death.

Leaving room for interpretation

The most severe errors occur not in how documents are written but in how they are understood after the fact.

You should have substantial, in-depth conversations with the designated trustee or given any power of attorney. This will help reduce misinterpretation of trust documents, which will work to your advantage.

Forgetting to update your estate after divorce

Unfortunately, this occurs frequently. You never change the beneficiary of your retirement account or life insurance to your ex-spouse.

Worse, following your divorce, you are forced to keep a life insurance policy for your ex-husband, but you transfer the beneficiary to your new spouse. As you can tell, this often results in costly lawsuits.

Failing to name backups for decision-makers

When tragedy strikes, even the best-laid plans can go awry. If you and your spouse are killed in the same accident, fire, or natural disaster, you should have designated a secondary beneficiary.

Make a plan to deal with unforeseeable and terrible events, and name additional/alternative beneficiaries.

Choose a backup executor and other decision-makers. If they cannot fulfil their commitments due to death, incapacity, or other circumstances, a court will appoint replacements unless you have already provided for these possibilities.

Take care of this as soon as possible and with caution. Remember that it is much easier to prepare for the unknown when you are in good physical and mental condition.

Failing to keep track of beneficiary designations

It may appear that dividing an estate among beneficiaries is simple, but it is not. Consider a parent who intends to distribute equal shares to his children. The will may specify that each child receives a certain amount.

On the other hand, if one child is named as a beneficiary on death to a bank account in an oversight or additional capacity, the child will be the sole beneficiary of the bill regardless of the will.

As a result, in addition to naming the beneficiaries and their corresponding shares in your will, you must also provide your bank with a directive outlining the interests in your account following your death.

If you don’t include this, the bank’s rules will take precedence over anything you’ve mentioned regarding that account, resulting in your total estate going in percentages that differ from those expressed in your will.

Not having an estate plan.

Lack of will or trust can result in your family members fighting in court over your intentions or having the court oversee every element of the administration.

This is especially important if you have little children who cannot inherit money. The court will appoint a guardian to hold the minor child’s inheritance and supervise how the funds are used.

You don’t want this to happen to you, do you?

To ensure this doesn’t happen, work with your estate planning lawyer Largo to develop an estate plan to protect your property and prevent your loved ones from going to court.