The death of a loved one is a hard and trying time for anyone to go through. Unfortunately, even after the funeral services have come to end and things seem to settle, the work is not yet done. Often times there are estate matters that need to be handled.
What is an Estate? Simply put, an estate is what is left in an individual’s name or possession at the time of their death, including assets and debts. To distribute what is left in an estate to those who are entitled to it a person’s estate is administered in a process called probate. It is through the probate process that the property titled in the deceased’s name is accounted for and transferred.
The purpose of a last will and testament is to give directives as to how a person wishes for their estate and belongings to be distributed. If a person dies without ever having a will, or their will was proved to be invalid (not legal due to an issue in drafting or execution), then the probate court distributes the estate according to that state’s probate law. For example, under Maryland state law, if a person died and they had no will and no surviving blood relatives, then their probate assets would pass to the county’s board of education. Laws can vary from state to state, and it’s no different in the field of estate law and probate. Be sure to contact an estate law attorney in your state for legal advice.
During the probate process a person is appointed by the probate court to administer the estate. This person is often referred to as an executor or executrix. This person can either be nominated in the deceased’s will to handle their estate matters, or in the absence of a will, the court can appoint whom they deem appropriate. It is the executor’s responsibility to gather all necessary information and documents so that the deceased’s assets may be found, used to pay the remaining debts of the deceased, and the remainder of the assets divided among the beneficiaries named in the will, or in the absence of a will, the heirs at law as named in the state’s statute of descent and distribution.
Sounds like a lot of work, right? Well, it is. Even small estates worth little value take a great deal of time, hassle, and expense to complete the probate process. It can be a confusing ordeal, especially on top of already handling the grief that comes with the loss of a loved one. That’s why many families choose to seek the legal advice of an attorney. A lawyer skilled in probate administration and estate law can help to relieve the burden, stress, and anxiety that estate administration can cause. There’s no better help in estate matters than the diligent and experienced guidance of a practicing probate attorney.