I often explain to people that I am a "probate lawyer" only to be met with a blank stare. Occasionally, the statement "I don't know what that means" will accompany the blank stare. So, I decided to draft a series of posts under the "Probate" heading that will offer some general explanations and definitions. Hopefully, this will offer some guidance to those suffering a loss who aren't sure of their next steps.
I manage a lot of unique cases and have witnessed many probate outcomes – both fair and unfair. I’ve had the opportunity to be placed in a position where I can now see the little bumps in the road before they happen. Before I continue onto my point about air tight wills in Part II of this series, let me run you through a few terms.
“Probate” is simply the process of administering the estate of a deceased person, looking at all claims to money or other assets, administering monies and items fairly and as close to the wishes of the deceased as they are known through the documentation. The process can also be called "estate administration" as we are working to administer a person's estate (i.e. stuff) after death according to his or her wishes.
During the probate administration process, what is known as a “probate court” will validate and test the will (I will cover this in Part II). Once this is completed, the court will then interpret the wishes of the deceased person and appoint the executor of the estate. Post appointment of the executor, the probate will serve the purpose of adjudicating disputes to the will and determining the value of any claims made to the estate by outside parties.
Whenever you have outside interest in a will, you will have many probate disputes. Your lawyer should anticipate this and work to create the most reliable will to protect your family as possible. In Part II we will discuss measures that can be taken to protect your unique family. As an estate lawyer who has drafted hundreds of wills, and handled numerouse probates, for many different types of family my firm is well prepared to help you with this.