You may imagine family members sitting around the table after a funeral for the “reading of the will.” The impression is that the executor of the estate reads the will at this meeting, and inheritances are distributed shortly thereafter. In reality, the executor cannot distribute assets right away. When a will is used as a vehicle of asset transfer, it must be admitted to probate. The heirs cannot receive their inheritances until the estate is probated and closed by the court. In this post, our Ossining probate attorney will explain the effects of probate on your heirs.
Probate is a public proceeding
As you are going through life conducting your business, you probably do not want everyone in town to know how you are managing your money. When you maintain personal possession of your property and facilitate its distribution through the terms of a last will, your privacy is lost, because probate is a public proceeding. Anyone who has an interest can access probate records because they are publicly available.
Generally speaking, the loss of privacy can be disconcerting. More specifically, there could be certain family members or close associates who may feel slighted when they find out the details. This can cause hard feelings among family members and friends, and in extreme cases, there can be estate challenges.
Estate challenges you can expect
The ability to challenge the estate is another drawback that comes into play when you use a last will that must be admitted to probate. There is a proving of the will during the probate process. The court is charged with the responsibility of determining the validity of the will. This provides an open window of opportunity for anyone who may want to challenge the terms of the will.
What you need to know about probate costs
During probate, there are various different expenses that will typically pile up, and these expenditures ultimately reduce the amount of the inheritances that will be received by the heirs.
Right off the bat there will be a filing fee with the court, and the executor will be putting in a lot of time and effort, so he or she is entitled to remuneration. Since probate is a legal process, a probate attorney will often be retained, and this is another expense.
Final debts must be paid during the probate process, and this would include final taxes. The executor may bring in an accountant to assist, and there can also be appraisal and liquidation fees as the property is being prepared for distribution to the heirs.
When you add in the miscellaneous expenses that will arise during the probate process, you can see that a relatively significant sum of the money can be consumed.
Probate proceedings can take time
The last probate drawback that we will look at in this post is the consumption of time. You probably want your heirs to receive their inheritances shortly after your passing if it is at all possible. This will not happen when probate enters the picture.
In most areas, a case that is not particularly complicated will pass through probate in perhaps nine months to a year. Complex cases can take considerably longer, and the heirs do not receive their inheritances during probate, so this time lag is a considerable pitfall.
Summing it all up
Let’s put all of this information together. Probate is a legal process that comes into play if you pass away while you are in direct personal possession of property. If you state your final wishes in a last will, it would be admitted to probate after you die, and the court would supervise the administration of your estate.
There are some significant pitfalls that go along with the probate process. It is a public proceeding, so probate records can be accessed by any interested party. The process provides a forum for disgruntled individuals who may want to challenge the will, and it can be expensive.
Probate can also consume a considerable amount of time, and the surviving family members have to wait out the process. Inheritances cannot be distributed until the court closes the estate, and this can take close to a year, even if there are no complications.
If you have questions regarding probate or any other estate planning matters, please contact the experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of Mary A. Miller, P.C. for a consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (914) 939-6565. We are here to help!