After a person dies, the estate must be finalized and distributed among the qualified heirs. There may be a home and vehicles to sell. You might want a specific person to inherit your home. Your assets, including savings, have to be distributed. If you have a will, you’ve laid out exactly how you want this to happen. But, there’s still more to the process.
Probate is a legal process where the court legally acknowledges your will and appoints an executor to pay off any remaining debt and distribute the remaining assets the way you desire. The executor may be someone you’ve chosen or a court-appointed agent.
If you have your will drawn up by an elder law attorney, it will meet the probate laws in your state. This is important as states often have different laws.
What Should Be Easy Can Become Messy
By nature, probate law isn’t complicated if you’ve had your will drawn up by an attorney. Things can get messy if you don’t have a will or have different versions of wills that all appear to be valid at first. You’ve probably seen stories where family members all provided a copy of their family member’s will, and each one favors the person presenting the will. It leads to time-consuming legal battles.
Probate can be a long, drawn-out process if the proper paperwork isn’t in place. In the early-1800s, Daniel Clark, a New Orleans businessman, married a socialite who was visiting the area. They had a brief affair that ended in a secret marriage. But, Zulime Carriere was already married, so the marriage between her and Daniel Clark was annulled before their daughter, Myra Clark Gaines was born.
Clark entered into a new relationship and wanted to hide all evidence of his marriage, so he sent his newborn daughter to his friends Samuel and Marian Davis. They raised the child as their own, collecting payments from Clark. When he died seven years later, he was worth around $35 million, which is the equivalent of almost $845 million today. People began to fight for his wealth.
In the 1830s, Myra Clark Gaines married and discovered that Clark was her birth father. She found a letter stating that he’d drafted a second will leaving everything to his daughter. An investigation found that the business partners who inherited his wealth destroyed that will. With her husband’s help, she filed a petition to inherit his estate. This battle became the longest in history with her being named the rightful heir in 1891, six years after her death.
Talk to an Elder Law Specialist
You might find online legal forms that seem like the best solution but don’t take this step without first talking to an elder law specialist. Some state laws prohibit using online forms for wills, powers of attorney, trusts, etc. It’s always best to pay an expert in elder law to draw up indisputable legal forms to ensure your family can handle your estate as you wish.
Make sure you’ve worked with an elder law attorney and have a legally binding will, powers of attorney, and estate plan. It saves time, hassle, and relationships.