Probate law is an area of the legal world that often leaves average folks feeling a little mystified. It's often an exceedingly boring section of the system, but it's also downright crazy in the handful of cases that require serious scrutiny. Let's look at the question of why a case might go to probate and what the implications may be for you.
Why Probate Exists
First, there is the scenario where someone dies without a will. In this scenario, probate may be ordered so the court can determine as close as possible what the deceased's wishes for the transfer of their assets would have been. Essentially, the court decides who the beneficiaries are supposed to be and what they get.
Second, there is the scenario where a will was written, but there are doubts about it. This can arise for many reasons, including ambiguous or missing legal language, multiple copies, or incorrect or incomplete notarization and witnessing. Generally, the probate process in these cases boils down to interpreting the language of the will against the letter of the law.
Third, serious questions of who is entitled to assets can appear. For example, the deceased might have remarried shortly before dying. Other potential beneficiaries of the estate may cast doubts on changes to the will or even the nature of the marriage.
Finally, a will can end up so out of date that it's hard to properly apply it. Suppose a will was written so long ago that certain assets have been sold or significantly changed. Likewise, the list of beneficiaries can be inaccurate.
In each of these instances, the goal of estate law is to protect the rights of both the deceased and their heirs. Of course, a probate proceeding can cut right to the core of what it means to have those rights.
Presuming the judge sees a problem, an officer of the court, someone who typically has a background in either estate law or accounting, will be appointed to investigate the situation. This person will also have a fiduciary responsibility to take control of and care for the estate's assets while the issues are sorted out.
Do You Need Counsel?
"Maybe" is a terrible answer, but that's the answer here. If the estate is fairly small and no one is particularly inclined to fight, you probably don't need to rush to a probate law office. Conversely, dealing with a large or complex estate may require extensive legal help. Contact a probate law office near you today for more information.Share