Probate is the legal term for the way an estate is administered through the justice system. When a person dies their estate – their personal possessions and properties – is left behind. A probate court is set up to organize and disburse those properties according to the terms specified in the will.
The first step in the process is to substantiate that the will is authentic, which is usually just a formality. Next, the extent of the estate will be examined and everything included in it will be gone through and evaluated. Before any properties of the estate can be allocated, taxes must be paid and personal debt satisfied. The probate court can then distribute what is left to the heirs.
The rules that apply to probate courts vary from state to state, but unless an estate is notably simple and straightforward, an experienced attorney should be consulted. If a will is contested for instance, an attorney will be needed to present evidence to the court that the will is indeed valid.
Who could dispute the wishes of the deceased? State laws apply here but usually anyone who is a beneficiary or is in any way mentioned in the will is entitled to question its validity if they have legal justification. If someone has reason to believe that the testator was not of sound mind when he wrote the will, or if any kind of fraud is suspected, a petitioner may have a legitimate reason to ask for an investigation into the authenticity of the will. When a will is contested all the other aspects of the probate are put on hold. No proceeds will be awarded until the court has dealt with the challenge and come to a conclusion.
The court proceedings involved when a will is contested can be long and drawn out – some go on for years. The best way to assure that things go smoothly is to make sure your will is iron clad in the first place – a “no contest” clause can be written right into the will. Consult with an estate attorney who can help you draft a will in a way which will have all your bases covered. Call Parker Lawyers in Parker, CO @ 303-841-9525 to consult with an attorney who has had experience in estate planning.