When you hear the word “probate,” you probably think of probate court. Many of us associate probate court with a long, drawn out, costly process, wrapped in the red tape of the legal system. Going through probate court can be especially difficult when you are grieving the loss of a loved one. Probate court proceedings are the last thing you want to think about in the midst of planning a funeral, making arrangements for the deceased last wishes, and mourning the loss of your parent, spouse or loved one. Whenever possible, it is best to gain an understanding of probate and plan for that time in advance…like how to avoid it!
What Is Probate?
Generally speaking, probate is the process that takes place after a person dies in order to settle his or her estate. The following are some of the basic goals that need to be accomplished during probate:
- prove a person’s will as valid or invalid
- identify and inventory the assets and property left by the deceased
- appraise the property to determine a monetary value
- pay any debts or taxes owed by the deceased
- distribute the property as directed by the will
What Is The Role Of A Probate Lawyer?
The laws and court requirements vary from state to state. Your North Carolina probate lawyer will be licensed by the state, and educated regarding the particular probate procedures in North Carolina. There are many details to be handled during the time of probate, and your lawyer will be able to advise you through the entire process. For example, your probate lawyer will file all of the necessary documents required by the courts. In addition, your lawyer will lead you through the process of collecting life insurance proceeds, advise you regarding retirement plans, IRAs and 401(k)s, and guide you through the payment of final bills. There are tax issues to be concerned with as well including federal and state which your probate should be able to address. Think of your probate lawyer as a navigator through these unfamiliar and murky waters of the probate process.
When Should You Hire the Lawyer?
Ideally, you should hire an experienced estate planning attorney TODAY to advise you on how to plan your estate so it does not pass through probate. Of course, the unfortunate reality is that not everyone plans ahead. If you lost a loved one, a probate attorney should be contacted not too long after so that nothing is inadvertently done with the assets that is not permitted to be done. If you have begun the process on your own already, a probate lawyer can still be hired at any time during the probate process.