How Bad Is Probate Going To Be?

Posted on: 7 May 2020


The probate process has unfairly earned something of a bad name. Much of this reputation comes from misperceptions about what the process is meant to do.

A probate lawyer will tell you that the point of the system is to protect the rights of everyone who has a stake in a deceased person's estate. Take a look at what the good and not-so-good elements of the probate process are.

Good: You Will Have Your Say

If you believe there are serious questions about the disposition of an estate, you have the right to retain probate lawyer services and petition the court to review the case. Perhaps you think there was something a bit strange about the changes to your grandpa's will after he remarried. It's your right to raise these questions and have a court consider their validity.

Not-So-Good: Sometimes It's Required Even if Everything's Okay

Most states have thresholds for how much has to be at stake in an estate before the case automatically goes to probate. In a few states, this amount of estate value may only be in the tens of thousands of dollars. That can be something of an inconvenience if everyone is comfortable with what the estate documents seem to say. On the upside, it does ensure a certain degree of thoroughness.

Mixed: Not All Issues Go Through Probate

How you'll respond to this problem depends a lot on which side of a case you land on. Many financial accounts are designed so they don't have to go through probate. This will be expeditious in most cases, but there's room for problems in a few instances.

Someone who has nearly all their wealth in checking and savings accounts, for example, can submit "payable upon death" information for the accounts. This means whoever is named as the payee will simply collect the money without ever going through probate. Notably, if you believe malfeasance occurred, you can ask for a banking fraud investigation.

Good: Protection When There Is No Will

While most folks with significant wealth set up wills, people are odd creatures who don't always do the legally sensible thing. The probate process provides protection to descendants when there isn't a will in place. An officer of the court will be appointed to determine as best as possible what the wishes of the deceased may have been, they will make recommendations to the judge, and the resources of the estate will be distributed according to the judge's good sense.

For more information, reach out to a probate lawyer.