The last thing you want to do before you pass away is to have your estate probated in terms of probate. Probate is one of the most emotionally draining and stressful days a family can experience, and it will also be one of the most expensive. The cost of probate fees can reach up to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on how complex and small the estate is. It can also be very time consuming, as the court must determine how and who will pay for the probate. In addition, if there are debts owed by the deceased, the debts must be paid off before the estate is distributed.
One way to alleviate some of the stress of probate is to appoint an executor. An executor is not a lawyer or accountant but someone with specialized knowledge in financial and estate law. Some executors are qualified to administer a decedent’s estate, while others work as independent consultants, taking care of all personal legal matters for the beneficiary of the decedent’s estate. Regardless of who the executor is, they are required to file all legal paperwork associated with the decedent’s estate.
In addition to providing counsel to the beneficiaries of deceased estates, an executor is responsible for handling any cash or financial assets that the deceased left behind. This involves understanding the tax laws that apply to the assets, such as capital gains and interest and reporting any income to the appropriate government agencies. Executors must understand the entire legal structure of probate and report back to the beneficiaries regarding every transaction they identify. Failure to do so could lead to serious consequences for the beneficiary, including tax liability. Many people fear that their loved ones will not receive the inheritance they deserve, but hiring an experienced legal personal representative can alleviate some of those fears.
Another issue that arises from probate issues and the execution of deceased estates is asset protection. Because bank accounts and other financial documents are being opened and closed during a probate process, the beneficiary needs to keep copies of all correspondence. He or she should also be aware of the steps that will need to be taken to liquidate assets and transfer ownership of those assets to the beneficiary. Again, if the beneficiary is unable to do so himself, he may need to hire a liquidation representative.
Finally, many people face a practical problem when dealing with deceased estates and the execution of final agreements. For example, what happens to the money that a person raises during his lifetime? The question may be inappropriate when discussing estate planning for someone who is still alive, but thankfully it is a very practical question to which there is no easy answer. There are no set answers to this question, and each case and situation are unique. However, generally speaking, most people will agree that the best solution is to save as much of the deceased’s assets as possible and use that money to pay off debts, support the family, or another specified purpose.