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Probate Legal Help

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Best practices for beginning the probate process.

When a loved one passes, there may be several questions concerning initial steps. These can include how the process works, and the length of time it takes to complete. These will be briefly explained to have a better idea of what to discuss with your probate lawyer.

What is probate and how does it work?

Probate is a process in which a court legally recognizes a person’s death, thus beginning the validation, management, and distribution of their assets and/or estate via a will. This essentially transfers assets from the deceased person’s name into the names of the beneficiaries, including the payment of the deceased person’s debts. The general time frame to start probate is four years from the date of death, and is supervised through either an independent or a dependent administration.

Who can probate a will?

This will typically fall to the responsibility of an executor. This person is ultimately responsible for filing the will with the appropriate court in the state and county where the deceased permanently resided at the time of their passing. The executor is usually a family member; however a will can state a specific person as an executor. Filing will begin the probate process.

What is the length of time it takes to complete?

Unfortunately, there is no general answer to this question. The length of time to complete the probate process differs depending on the situation. Factors that would contribute to the time frame include if the deceased left a will, if that will is to be challenged by another individual, and the complexity of their assets. Probating a will can be completed in six months or can draw out for years.

Do I really need a probate attorney?

The simple answer is yes. Hiring a probate lawyer will allow you to move through the complicated process more seamlessly and facilitate in protecting your rights and interest. Navigating this complex process can be very stressful, therefore having an experienced lawyer who can offer advice, assist with organizing documents,  and attending hearings is essential.


Helpful questions to ask your probate lawyer:

  • Where can I open my probate case?
  • Can probate be initiated with or without a will?
  • Who are the heirs of an estate if a will was not created?
  • Will I require a dependent or independent administration?
  • Who is responsible for probate?
  • How do I contest a will?
  • What debts are forgiven upon death?

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