Probate is the legal process by which a deceased person’s assets are transferred to heirs and creditors. The county probate court supervises this transfer to ensure that the law is being followed. An executor (if there is a last will) or an administrator (if no will) applies to the probate court for permission to open an estate. When the probate court approves the authority of the executor or administrator, this person now has the legal authority to step into the shoes of the deceased person and take control of their property in order to ready it for distribution to the heirs. When an estate is closed, all the creditors (or, in the event, there is more debt than assets, some creditors) are paid, and the estate distributes the property to the heirs as determined by the will or the law.
Probate can appear deceptively simple to an untrained observer – most forms are preprinted and contain instructions as to how to complete them. Unfortunately, filing the wrong form or more often failing to file the right forms can make the process unnecessarily expensive or prolonged.
Here is a simple example. Generally, unsecured creditors must send their claim to the executor of the estate within six months of death in order to collect that debt. If no estate is opened within six months, the creditor has a choice – pay to open the estate, or lose the right to collect the debt. (NB: This does not apply to a mortgage or other secured debt). The right strategic move in almost every case for our clients is to wait out the six months before making any filings to ensure that any creditors out there don’t have an opportunity to make a claim against the estate.
That’s just one example as to why you will want to consult a probate attorney, like Carson Law Firm, before you start filling out paperwork and paying fees down at the probate court.
We offer free 15-minute phone consultations for most probate matters. Give us a call at 216-352-4243, let us know your situation, and we’ll get you on the calendar.