Probate is often a time-consuming process that occurs at one of the most difficult times in people’s lives. After the death of a loved one, the probate court and, usually, an appointed family member are required to work together to settle the financial affairs of the decedent’s estate.
The probate process typically presents challenges that can make a long process even longer. These challenges may also threaten the expected inheritances of beneficiaries and lead to unexpected or even unintended estate distribution results.
If you have been appointed as an executor or representative of an estate, you will benefit from hiring an experienced Cleveland probate lawyer to guide you through this process. Additionally, if you have a financial or legal interest in the decedent’s estate, an attorney for probate would also be of great assistance.
At Slater & Zurz, we have guided many of our Cleveland clients through probate and have made sure their interests were protected during the administration of the estate. It can be a long process, and you deserve to have your interests faithfully represented. Contact our firm at (440)557-2861 for a consultation free of charge.
At its essence, probate is simply the method used by the courts to ensure that a decedent’s debts are paid and that their assets are dispersed according to their wishes.
In real life, probate commonly ends up being a complex process that takes months or, sometimes, years. Even so, it is necessary in many cases of death and is designed to protect the rights of parties with legitimate interests in the decedent’s estate.
Probate is invoked once a decedent passes away. The executor appointed in the will must take charge and prepare to administer the estate. If no will is on record or the existing will is invalid, the courts will decide how to settle the estate. In both cases, there are specific steps the estate must pass through before it is settled.
The probate process begins with the filing and validation of the will, during which a person with standing may contest the provisions or the entire document if they have legal grounds to do so. The probate process may lengthen considerably when will contestation occurs, especially when multiple grounds or parties are involved.
Once the will is validated, the next step is to gather, inventory, appraise, and protect the assets of the deceased individual. The debts must then be verified, calculated, and paid before the inheritance is distributed.
In fact, the beneficiaries of the will are the last in line to receive an estate distribution. The first in line is the estate itself and the costs involved in its administration.
If you are appointed executor or representative, you are permitted to draw reasonable compensation for the expenses related to administering the estate. This includes expenses related to the hiring of an attorney if that attorney is working for the interests of the estate.
Other expenses the executor must pay out of the estate, in order of priority, include:
- Funeral expenses up to $4,000
- Spousal and minor child support
- Preferred debts under U.S. law
- Terminal illness expenses
- Funeral expenses between $4,000 and $6,000
- Final nursing home expenses
- Property taxes, Medicaid debt, and other financial obligations owed to the state
- Debts up to $300 owed for manual labor performed within one year of the decedent’s passing
- Other verified claims of debt
After these have been paid out, the estate may be distributed to the beneficiaries according to the will of the deceased person.
Probate is likely in many estate administration cases unless the decedent took certain legal steps prior to death or the estate has a low value. Contrary to popular belief, the existence of a will does not exempt an estate from going through probate; instead, it means the court must verify the will.
If the estate’s value or the funeral expenses are below $5,000, then the court can exempt it from probate. Additionally, estates worth $45,000 or less may also be exempt from probate if the totality of the assets goes directly to the surviving spouse.
Many want to avoid probate, even though probate may not be a bad thing. In cases where there is a defective will or no will, probate provides an important service. However, there are many cases where probate may be too cumbersome of a method to handle many of the assets of an estate.
As explained, an estate may automatically be excluded from probate if its value is below a specific amount. However, for estates with dollar amounts above these thresholds, other methods of avoiding probate exist. Many employ the services of a Cleveland probate lawyer to create trusts to keep their assets out of probate.
An attorney for probate may also recommend actions to take toward certain assets to keep them out of probate, such as:
- Make certain bank accounts joint bank accounts
- Designate accounts as transfer on death (TOD) or payable on death (POD).
- Hold real property jointly with another
All of these actions must take place before the death of the testator. As such, it is important to understand the value of a Cleveland lawyer who understands the importance of estate planning as well as the intricacies of probate law.
When you work with Slater & Zurz, you get a skilled probate lawyer in Cleveland who will craft legal strategies specifically based on the circumstances of your case.
If you are an administrator, our attorney will be there every step of the way, helping to facilitate the fulfillment of your duties. If you are an interested party, you can trust us to ensure that your interests are represented and protected during probate.
We are ready to speak with you at any time about your probate affairs. Call (440)557-2861 to set up a free consultation to determine what Slater & Zurz can do for you.
One of the first factors determining how long probate takes is the will. If an interested party contests its provisions, then litigation will need to take place to settle the dispute. This will add significant time to the process.
Other factors that commonly increase the time it takes to probate an estate include:
- Lack of a will
- Extensive, high-dollar assets
- Complex assets
- Missing heirs
- No executor named in the will
Probate proceedings can be incredibly unpredictable and time-consuming. Whatever your interest in an estate, you benefit greatly from having a probate attorney navigating the process.
A knowledgeable probate attorney is indispensable in the probate process and even before. At Slater & Zurz, we have helped numerous clients come out of probate with their interests intact.
From estate planning before passing to estate administration, we work diligently to make sure our clients have the peace of mind that accompanies knowing their financial affairs and interests are protected and in order.
Call (440)557-2861 for a free consulting session with an experienced probate attorney from our legal team.
A lawyer for probate safeguards the interests of the estate during probate proceedings, which requires the attorney to work closely with the executor to settle the estate according to the wishes of the decedent and the law.
There is often an enormous quantity of paperwork involved in the administration of an estate. Each document must comply with substantive and procedural requirements and must be filed in a timely manner. Your probate lawyer must ensure all of the legalities are in order and that the estate complies with relevant regulations.
If you have to go through probate, you should have a probate attorney to safeguard your interests during the process. Although seeking counsel is not a requirement for probate, proceeding without one may put your interests at risk.
Even if an estate is not required to go through probate, consulting with an experienced probate lawyer in Cleveland is a wise choice to help you settle matters even out of probate court. Additionally, speaking with a lawyer for probate before you pass away is a great opportunity to take control of what will happen to your estate after you pass.
Because each probate situation is different, the cost of hiring a lawyer will vary from case to case. Although no specific laws establish what attorneys must charge, their fees must be considered reasonable.
Fees may be affected by the complexity of the case, the time involved, what others in the field charge for similar cases, and other factors.
Generally speaking, you can expect to pay more fees for a complex case with a valuable estate. In some cases, the lawyer’s fee will be calculated on an hourly basis, while other probate lawyers may charge a flat rate. Contact Slater & Zurz at (440) 557-2861 today to set up a free consultation and to discuss the circumstances of your case and the options before you.