"Estate" of Emergency
A cursory review of the current tax records details a probate issue that is easily resolved. Many people die and leave behind real estate, bank accounts, personal property and other valuable items that are never probated and disbursed in a timely manner.
By way of example, consider the following circumstances:
- Client X appears in my office seeking advice on how to handle some cosmetic repairs on the family home that he grew up in with his mother and sister.
- Client X's mother has been deceased for six years, but the title to the family home is still in her name.
- Client X has been paying the taxes and expenses on the property out of his own pocket.
- Client X wants to take out a small loan on the property, but the loan is unavailable because he is not the owner of the property.
The problems detailed in my example can be resolved with the appropriate plan. The simple act of acquiring the death certificate, locating any wills, and preparing a list of any heirs of a deceased person will jump start the probate process. Some people consult an attorney to assist with opening the estate in the appropriate manner, but most local probate court offices have staff capable of assisting an unrepresented party in this process. Once the estate is opened with the probate court of jurisdiction, the person appointed to the handle the estate will have to organize and detail the deceased person's assets, deal with the deceased person's creditors, and disburse the assets to the appropriate heir or devisee.
The probate process also provides solutions for individuals that have waited for a considerable amount of time to probate a family member or friend's estate. If you wait until ten years after someone dies to probate the estate, you will have to participate in a more formal hearing. The presiding judge will review the assets in the deceased person's name and assist in determining the appropriate heirs. While this process sounds challenging, it is a simple petition and a just mechanism to transfer property that has been stagnant and in a deceased person's name for a long time.
It is never a bad idea to consult an attorney to discuss probate issues. Attorneys can provide advice and assist with more technical issues associated with an estate like deeds of distribution. Please do not hesitate to contact my office to discuss your specific needs in greater detail.
~ Charlie J. Blake, Jr. (October 2013)