Like many people, you probably have a general idea of what the legal process known as probate entails, even if you have never been directly involved in the probate of an estate. You may also be aware that some attorney focus all, or some, of their practice on issues related to probate. You may not, however, be aware of the numerous scenarios in which you might find yourself that would require you to retain the services of a probate attorney. In fact, the odds are very good that you will find yourself in a position where you need the assistance of a probate attorney at least once in your life, if not more than once. To give you a better idea of when a probate attorney is needed, consider the following four common scenarios.
Scenario One – “The Executor”
What do you do if you recently found out that you were appointed the Executor of the estate of a recently deceased family member or loved one? One of the first things you should do is to retain the services of an experienced probate attorney. Probate is the legal process that most estates are required to go through following the death of the estate owner. If you were notified that you are the Executor, that means the decedent appointed you in his/her Last Will and Testament. You are not legally required to accept the appointment; however, if you do plan to accept it is imperative that you understand what the position entails. Formal probate can be a lengthy, and complicated process, depending on the size and complexity of the estate. As the Executor you will be required to oversee the probate of the estate from start to finish. Having an experienced probate attorney by your side to guide and advise you is invaluable.
Scenario Two – “The Survivor”
When faced with the death of a spouse, parent, or other close family member mist people go through a period of shock – even if the death was foreseen. Emotions naturally run high and may swing from anger to denial to misery. At some point, however, you will start to wonder what practical steps you should be taking. If you have the decedent’s Will, what are you supposed to do with it? Conversely, if you cannot find a Will, what happens to the decedent’s assets? How do you know what assets are available to you if the decedent supported you financially? A probate attorney can help answer all of these questions and any others that come up as well as help guide you through the probate process if you are a beneficiary or heir of the estate.
Scenario Three – “The Creditor”
When you loan money, or extend credit, to someone you typically make the repayment terms clear before doing so; however, what happens to the debt owed to you if the borrower dies before the debt is paid off? The answer to that question is more complicated than you might think it is. The good news is that you may still be entitled to repayment of the debt owed to you out of the decedent’s estate. Navigating the probate process as a creditor though can be challenging to say the least. Retaining the services of a probate attorney to advise you with regard to where you stand legally and then helping you file your claim against the estate if you are entitled to do so is your best option.
Scenario Four – “The Planner”
You have likely heard that probate avoidance is one of the most common estate planning goals – and with good reason because formal probate can cost your loved ones a considerable amount of both time and money. There are ways to significantly reduce your estate’s exposure to probate, if not avoid it entirely. Not surprisingly, the best way to learn how to avoid probate is from a probate attorney who knows all the ins and outs of the probate process. Taking the time to consult with a probate attorney now will almost certainly benefit your loved ones down the road.
If you have additional questions about estate planning or probate in the State of North Carolina contact our experienced attorney, Justin Plummer, at The Law Offices of Cheryl David by calling 336-547-9999 to schedule an appointment.