Losing a loved one is devastating for everyone involved. It can be especially challenging if you have to process your loss while also acting as the executor of their will. If your family member didn’t have an estate plan or a trust, and owned property in their name, all of their assets and possessions will likely have to undergo probate. Probate is a Utah court process that is designed to carry out the terms of a will and distribute a deceased person’s assets according to their wishes (or, if there wasn’t a will, according to state laws). It can be time-consuming, expensive, and stressful. If you don’t retain a probate attorney as your legal counsel, it can be easy to make costly mistakes that interrupt the process and hold up your loved one’s assets.
Here are a few of the most common problems that we as probate lawyers frequently encounter and help clients overcome!
- Contested Wills
A will contest is a probate proceeding in which someone who can stand to possibly benefit from a will questions its validity. Only “interested persons,” can contest the will, persons who are typically disinherited beneficiaries or creditors. Some of the most common grounds for challenging a will include:
- Whether or not the will maker was of sound mind
- Whether or not the documents abide by state laws
- Whether or not the will maker was manipulated by another party when creating the will
If someone is contesting your loved one’s will, our probate attorneys can evaluate their claims, build a defense, represent you in court, or assist you in negotiating with the contestor outside of court for a more amicable result. We’ll ensure you’re aware of your legal rights, options, and next steps.
- Challenges For The Executor & Administrator
An executor of a will is named to carry out the wishes of someone after they pass away. Most of the time, this is the closest relative, and will typically be the one to get the probate process started. A will administrator is someone who is appointed by the court in the absence of a will, or when the named executor doesn’t want to fulfill their duties. Often a spouse, or close relative is appointed if this is the case.
Both an executor and administrator perform the same tasks, as they are both responsible for collecting and appraising all the assets of the deceased, paying creditors, and distributing remaining assets to the heirs. Both administrators and executors are also responsible for talking to all parties involved in the estate, communicating with the courts, filing proper documentation, and more. Besides this being incredibly time-consuming, it also carries risk; the executor/administrator incurs liability, which means that if anything goes wrong, or they make mistakes, or a creditor makes a claim, they can be sued and have to navigate a lawsuit.
If you’ve been named as an executor or an administrator, a seasoned probate attorney can function as a knowledgeable, helpful a third party that can protect you from pitfalls, guide you through the probate process to the quickest, most efficient resolution, and take the overall burden off you.
- Claims Against The Estate
A claim against an estate is a written request for the estate to pay money that the decedent owed. For example, a creditor might make a claim against an estate if someone died with excessive credit card debt, or owed money on a personal loan. However, anyone who believes they are owed money or property from the decedent can make a claim against an estate, similar to the way a disinherited beneficiary might contest a will. If you’re the executor of the estate, it is likely that you’ll have to be the one to address these claims. Because of the responsibilities delegated to an executor and/or administrator, you’ll probably have to settle the debt with any creditors making a claim. If the claim escalates to a dispute, you may have to go to court to fight any claims you feel are invalid, and present evidence to prove that the estate doesn’t owe money or property to those claiming so.
This can become overwhelming as you’re already in the midst of probate and now have to navigate refuting claims or finding ways to reach a settlement. Utilizing the assistance of a probate attorney can help get you through an issue like this with less hassle.
- Delays In Progress
In a complicated process like probate, it is inevitable that a few delays will pop up. A few reasons for delays include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Complicated assets, like those that are named in different states.
- Errors on paperwork (probate requires a lot of documentation; it needs to be done correctly).
- Tax issues, like a final tax return not being filed.
- Multiple wills, or wills that conflict with one another.
- Power struggles between beneficiaries and heirs
Probate is already a lengthy ordeal that can take several months or even a few years to complete. Many of these causes for delay are preventable issues when you work with someone who is familiar with Utah’s laws regarding estate plans and the estate process. A probate attorney can help ensure all required paperwork is completed accurately and the proper documentation is filed!
- Familial Conflict
When emotions are already heightened and it comes to deciding who ends up with what, sometimes the worst sides of yourself and others come out. There may be tension and even arguments that arise between family members when money is involved. The right law firm can help you negotiate and resolve these issues so your family can avoid having to go to court. However, if litigation is necessary, you will also need to work with a law firm that is more than capable of representing your best interest.
How Green Legal Group Can Help You
If your loved one’s estate has to go through Utah’s probate process, we can help you maneuver through the steps and handle any complications that arise along the way. We want to help you honor your family member’s last wishes and avoid stressful and costly mistakes. If you’re facing one of these problems, we can evaluate your loved one’s estate and explain your legal options so that you can have peace of mind going forward. Call Green Legal Group today for a free 30-minute consultation.