During the estate planning process, many New Yorkers look at probate as a bad word and something they want to avoid at all costs. They try to avoid wills, which often go through the probate process. This is usually because probate is often thought of as a costly and lengthy process. However, many people are unaware of what probate actually is and what it does upon one's death.
Probate is a court process that works by distributing property after a person's death. It settles the person's personal and financial affairs. If a person owes money, creditors are informed and they get their share of the estate. If a person has assets, they are distributed to his or her heirs according to the will. In the will, the deceased person typically names an executor to oversee his or her estate.
If there is no valid will, the estate will also go through probate. The court will look at the person's family and determine if there are any close family members (such as a spouse or children) and decide who gets what. In this case, there is likely to be an asset dispute, particularly if the person has a lot of family members.
Probate is often avoided because it can be costly. Attorney fees and court costs can eat up a large portion of the estate. In addition, probate is a lengthy process. It is not uncommon for probate to last a year or longer. However, probate can be a good thing. By being prepared, it can go a lot smoother and result in a reduced risk of family disputes.
Although there are several reasons to attempt to avoid probate, there are numerous reasons and benefits to going through probate. It is important that the process is understood and any needed help or advice is gained in this lengthy and complex procedure. Contact a Long Island probate lawyer at the Law Offices of Steven M. Adler, PLLC if you have further questions.
Source: Edmond Sun, "Probate not always such a bad thing," Matt Hopkins, March 29, 2013