Do I Need an Attorney If I’m Going Through Probate?
If a close loved one has passed away and you’re in charge of their estate, you may be learning about the probate process for the first time. While it may seem overwhelming, probate serves an important purpose and is very easy to navigate with the help of an experienced Oklahoma probate attorney.
Looking for help managing your loved one’s estate? Not sure what your next steps should be when it comes to protecting their assets? Call Entz Burton & Associates at 800-633-7230 to set up a consultation now.
An Overview of Probate
When someone passes away, the government has no automatic way to know what debts they owed, which assets they had, and how those assets were intended to be distributed. This is one reason that estate planning is so important; with a clear and well-documented estate plan, it is far easier for the executor to navigate probate and handle everything appropriately.
Probate serves several purposes. The court verifies the authenticity of the decedent’s will (if they had one) and names an executor if there is not already one named. The executor is then responsible for documenting the decedent’s property and assets, maintaining those assets throughout the probate process, paying off debts and unpaid taxes, determining who is supposed to receive which assets, and overseeing the distribution of the property.
Why Probate Can Be Complicated
When done properly, probate can prevent problems down the line. Imagine an estate that is not managed properly, and creditors are not given a chance to come forward and claim what they are owed. Assets may be distributed before they should be, and when creditors find out about the decedent’s passing, they’ll come after the estate. At that point, the executor has a much larger legal issue to tackle. The estate has no more money left to pay out debts, but the debts are still supposed to be paid.
There are a million little hiccups that can drag out the probate process, cost the family money, and drain the estate little by little. Remember, most executors don’t have a background in executing an estate—they learn as they go. That takes time. This is the perfect setup for avoidable mistakes, unnecessary legal fees to fix preventable problems, and frustrated family members who are waiting for their promised assets.
Probate can be even more complicated with a large estate, a large number of beneficiaries, or beneficiaries who disagree over the estate or contest the will. The more factors you add into probate, the more likely it is that the executor will get overwhelmed, fall behind, or make mistakes.
Not All Estates Go Through Probate
Before worrying about probate and what tasks you’ll be responsible for, make sure that the estate you’re overseeing will actually have to go through this process. Some estates can bypass probate entirely, thanks to trusts, pay-on-death bank accounts, and other types of non-probate property. Additionally, some small estates avoid probate entirely. If the total value of the estate, excluding real estate, is lower than $50,000, successors can use a small estate affidavit to bypass probate.
How an Attorney Can Help
A probate attorney can be an excellent resource during this time of grief and uncertainty. Your Oklahoma probate attorney will help you fulfill your obligations as executor, protect the estate’s assets, and carefully navigate the technical and legal aspects of probate. You can rely on your attorney to recommend experts for the valuation of property, explain your legal obligations, address the tax concerns of the estate, handle court paperwork and documentation, and represent you in court proceedings. Should the estate become even more complicated when a beneficiary contests a will or otherwise tries to interfere, your attorney will handle those legal concerns as well.
Keep in mind that you are required to preserve the estate’s assets for the entirety of the probate process. This means protecting the real estate, paying taxes, and otherwise maintaining the value of the assets. The sooner you hire a probate attorney, the quicker you can get the process moving.
Contact Entz Burton & Associates Now for Help With Probate
The team at Entz Burton & Associates is here to guide you through the probate process. As you mourn the loss of your loved one, the last thing you need is a whole list of legal responsibilities that you’ve never handled before. Let us handle your legal needs while you grieve. Call us at 800-633-7230 or contact us online to talk to our team of attorneys.
Attorney J. Michael Entz at Entz Burton & Associates is an experience lawyer in estate planning law, business formation and asset protection serving the families in Oklahoma City and Weatherford office.