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Nolan Elder Law and Estate Planning, LLC Blog

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Protecting The Assets Of The Deceased

In order to enforce and carry out the intentions of a testator, or the person who created the will, the will must go through the time-consuming and often complicated probate process.   Probate is where property is dispersed to other individuals by a Probate Court.  If you have an interest under the will, you may submit the will to probate, generally, within a five-year limitation from the testator’s death. 

However, not all property needs to go through probate in Alabama.  For example, any possessions or items specifically named in a will are likely to pass to the stated beneficiaries, such as a life insurance plan.  An attorney can decipher whether other assets may pass outside of this process as well. 

There are a number of steps and limitations involved in conserving the assets of the deceased.  It is critical to track down certain documents as soon as possible, such as his or her death certificate and last will and testament.  An attorney can advise you as to how to secure these records and how much it will cost.

All securities and liquid assets should be located and accounted for.  It is also advisable to ensure that all of the testator’s policies, accounts, and plans are not overdue or outstanding.  Additionally, any expenses that you sponsor for the deceased should be documented and disclosed to the court, such as funeral and burial expenditures. 

Usually, each item must be located and inventoried within two months of the testator’s death.  Your attorney can help you determine what each asset legally requires to transfer ownership, and whether or not the transfer of ownership is automatic.  However, if property is located outside the state, an attorney will need to determine whether its distribution is governed by different law. 

Still, you may need to have a petition filed in a particular location, such as in the county court where your relative lived.  Creditors and other entities may need to be notified, in writing, of your relative’s death and claims may need to be published within a specified time. 

It is important to have an attorney guide you throughout the complex probate process—otherwise distribution of a decedent’s assets may be delayed.  All claims against the estate must be resolved and expenses must be paid before the residual of the estate can actually be dispersed.   An attorney can keep you informed of all deadlines and make sure that the court’s requirements are met. 

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