Mark Twain once said, “You don’t know a man until you divide an estate with him.” Unfortunately, the probate process has not gotten much better in the past 100 years. The average probate lasts 7-14 months, and we have seen our fair share of families destroyed though probate.
The most common reasons to begin probate are to (1) follow the instructions of a Last Will; (2) administer an estate without a Last Will; (3) resolve title issues on property; (4) access and collect accounts without a beneficiary; and (5) pay the final debts (credit cards, taxes, etc.) of the decedent.
Nearly thirty percent (30%) of the probate calls we receive do not actually need probate. That is, either there is not a probatable estate, other options are available, or the family does not need probate. The number one reason our firm loves probate is that, at the end of the day, the end result is as close to black and white as you can get. Unlike family lawyers who relentlessly argue what “best interest of the child means,” probate’s calculations work like a mathematical equation.
For example, if a Last Will divides property evenly, it is not difficult to sell, liquidate, and divide a cash settlement. However, there are a number of challenges. First, a lack of transparency will make even the easiest probates difficult and confusing. Second, every sell and distribution must be approved by the court. Third, there are always family dynamics at play. Often these emotions can complicate an otherwise methodical process of estate administration.
QUICK TIP: Our firm policy is to avoid probate if possible. We have one paralegal dedicated to probate to make sure your case keeps moving forward. Each case has around 40 action items to be completed during the case. It is important to know that there can be significant differences between judges in a circuit, which can greatly affect your case. However, judges are not assigned until after your case is filed.