The services of the right probate lawyer can be invaluable after the death of a loved one. With so many critical tasks to face, the last thing you want to worry about is violating legal requirements.
At Brady Cobin Law Group, PLLC, we can guide you through the process step by step, and take on many tasks directly if you desire, freeing you up to handle other critical matters. With our decades of experience, we can help you find the resources you need to wind up legal and financial affairs efficiently without wasting time and money.
Understanding the Probate Process
Probate is the court-supervised legal process of settling a person’s estate after they pass away. The term “estate” simply refers to the assets a person leaves behind at the time of death. The person named as personal representative by the court will be responsible for ensuring that the debts left by the deceased person are paid in accordance with legal requirements before any assets are distributed to beneficiaries or heirs.
If the deceased person left a will, one of the first steps is to submit the will to court so a judge can rule on the validity and grant official legal authority to the personal representative. Under the terminology used in North Carolina, if the personal representative is designated in a will, they are known as an executor and if they are appointed by the court outside of a will, the personal representative is referred to as an administrator. The duties are essentially the same.
A probate lawyer can help right from the start, submitting the will for probate, obtaining necessary authorizations, and guiding the personal representative in accordance with legal requirements. In most cases, the will is accepted by the court, but if legal requirements are not fulfilled or someone files a caveat action to contest the will, then the process can get complicated quickly.
Fiduciary Duty of Personal Representatives
The person appointed as executor or administrator of an estate owes a fiduciary duty to the estate. That means they are legally required to act in the best interests of the estate, and by extension, the creditors, heirs or legatees entitled to receive property from the estate.
If a personal representative fails to pay adequate attention to estate matters or makes improper decisions, they can be removed from the position and may even face personal liability. This is one reason many people find it reassuring to work with an experienced probate lawyer from the very beginning of the process.
Steps in the Probate Process
Each situation is different, but the probate process generally involves certain steps:
- Filing the will with the Clerk of Court in the county of the deceased person’s last residence
- Applying for appointment of executor or administrator
- Inventory of estate assets and assessment of the value of each asset (The inventory should include non-probate assets and must be filed with the clerk of the court within 90 days.)
- Notifying creditors and heirs in accordance with legal requirements
- Managing assets and selling assets if necessary
- Paying debts of the estate
- Computing taxes owed and filing tax returns
- Distributing assets in accordance with the will or the laws of intestate succession
- Preparing a final accounting for the court
It is certainly possible to handle these obligations without the assistance of a probate lawyer, particularly if the value of the estate is quite low. However, the research into legal requirements and proper handling of tasks in the required order can be a daunting task. Mistakes can be quite costly. Most people do not want to worry about being sued for breach of fiduciary duty or to keep looking over their shoulder to see if the IRS is coming after them for incorrect handling of the estate’s tax paperwork.
A Dedicated Probate Lawyer Can Make the Process So Much Easier
At Brady Cobin Law Group, PLLC, we are ready to help with efficient handling of simple estate issues, but we are also prepared to uphold your interests if probate becomes complicated. We would be happy to talk to you about your needs and how we can assist. Contact us at any time to schedule a confidential consultation.
We had an a wonderful experience with Andrew and Elizabeth! We had wills from out of state that needed to be updated in order to be compliant with NC law. We chose Brady Cobin Law firm due to Andrew’s affiliation with the military.
Compared to our experience in NJ, Andrew provide a lot more explanation to all of the documents, answered all questions, and truly understand our ultimate goal.
I was highly impressed with all of the documents that were created in addition to supplemental documents that would help with estate planning. If completed, it would really help the heirs/executors in the decision making.
Finally, while we were finalizing some of the work related to estate planning, Andrew was very responsive when I had additional questions.
I highly recommend Brady Cobin!!! You can’t go wrong!