Probate is a court-supervised legal proceeding that is necessary for ensuring a person’s assets get distributed to their rightful heirs. Probate sometimes gets a bad rap (it’s extremely time-consuming, expensive, and stressful for the executor/administrator), but without it, any random person could lay claim to a deceased person’s property, which would be unfair and chaotic! So, if you’ve recently been told that your loved one’s estate must go through probate, it’s important that you know it isn’t any sort of punishment – it is to make sure that their wishes can be carried out legally.
While it may be overwhelming to take the first step in initiating the probate process, there are some benefits to doing so promptly and not procrastinating. In this blog, we’ll reveal them!
1. Financial Efficiency
Probate is generally expensive, but the actual costs associated with it from start to finish will vary on several factors, such as the location, size, complexity, and type of estate plan (or lack thereof). That being said, there are some fairly common fees you can expect to pay at some point, which include:
- Court and filing fees
- Attorneys and executor fees
- Additional professional fees, such as those due to accountants, appraisers, land surveyors, and more
- Probate bond, which is required for all personal representatives (unless waived by the will or all beneficiaries in writing)
- And more!
By completing the probate process quickly, you may minimize court costs, attorney fees, and executor/estate administration fees, thereby preserving the overall value of the inheritance for the decedent’s heirs. Through the streamlined distribution of assets, the administrative and legal costs will be reduced.
2. Creditor Claims
Handling of the claims from creditors is a critical step of probate. Each known or reasonably ascertainable creditor must receive a Notice of Administration to Creditors, which limits the time in which a creditor may file a claim. Therefore, getting your notices out as early as possible is key. If the creditor does not file a claim within the timeline of the notice, then they won’t be able to initiate a lawsuit!
In California, creditors must file their claim before the later of the following:
- Four months after the date letters are first issued, or
- 60 days after the notice of administration if mailed or personally delivered
Be aware that not all creditors need to file a claim before proceeding with litigation, including:
- Claims covered by insurance, if the claimant is not seeking to establish liability beyond the coverage of the insurance policy or policies
- Enforcement of liens on the decedent’s property
- Certain claims based on the liability of the distributee
A skilled probate lawyer can help you gain a better understanding of how creditor claims work.
3. Distribution of Assets
Expedited probate ensures that beneficiaries receive their inheritance as soon as possible. They will likely already have to wait around 9-12 months, or even longer if the estate is more complex, or if other complications arise. Inheritances often play a significant role in the financial stability of beneficiaries. Whether it involves a sum of money, real estate, or other valuable assets, receiving an inheritance quickly can provide financial support during times of need. This financial strain may be due to expenses associated with education, medical expenses, or outstanding debts. Delaying the probate process means delaying this distribution of assets.
4. Business Interests
If your loved one had business interests, expedited probate may be necessary to maintain the continuity of the business operations. Business interests are any rights or claims that a person has in a business entity, such as a corporation, partnership, limited liability company, or sole proprietorship, and if they are owned by the person individually or as a tenant in common with others, they will be considered probate assets. Salaries, rent, and debts must be paid, and operations must continue, but if the decedent’s assets are locked up in probate, this may not be possible. Thus, it becomes crucial to quickly wrap up the probate process.
5. Avoiding Legal Complications
In California, there is no rigid legal timeframe for commencing probate proceedings, and it’s not uncommon for individuals to initiate the probate process for family members who passed away years ago. This is often the case when the estate is relatively small, and the deceased did not leave a will. However, delaying the opening of a deceased family member’s estate poses a risk, as someone else might take the initiative to do so themself.
Starting and completing probate promptly provides a crucial safeguard against the possibility of unfamiliar individuals or distant relatives emerging later to stake a claim on your family member’s estate. The timelier the probate process, the better protection it offers against potential challenges from external parties.
6. Closure For Heirs
The emotional aspect of probate for the heirs of the deceased is one that is often overlooked. The loss of a loved one is already a difficult experience, and the probate process can add an additional layer of emotional strain. When it is prolonged, this emotional burden can be exacerbated, so completing it quickly is one way to minimize this effect.
Probate also involves quite a few uncertainties and legal intricacies, in addition to the potential for disagreements and disputes among family members over inheritances. It can be a period of extreme anxiety for loved ones if they are playing a waiting game with probate. With a timely resolution, those individuals can move forward with a sense of certainty and assurance.
Allow Hayes Law Firm To Get You Through Probate Efficiently And Swiftly
If you are the executor or administrator of your loved one’s estate, you may be struggling with the idea of beginning the probate process because of all the complicated tasks that will ultimately fall on your shoulders. However, it truly is in the best interest of you and your family to do so sooner, rather than later, and our team is more than prepared to help you.
Our lead attorney, William Hayes, has over 40 years of legal experience, and we are also members of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, which provides us with a wealth of resources at our disposal to ensure that an estate is probated as smoothly as possible. Call today to schedule your free consultation and learn more about how we can serve you!
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