If you’ve created a will or established a living trust, good – it means you took steps to plan for your future and care for your family and friends when you’re no longer around for them. When you write up a will, you might not mind the fine print about probate, especially since you won’t even be around to deal with the entire process. But, as an estate planning lawyer in Warwick, RI from a firm like McCarthy Law, LLC can explain, if you suddenly find yourself in someone else’s will, understanding probate suddenly becomes a whole lot more important.

Someone’s estate is their final legacy. It’s how people remember them, and with luck, the drama and seemingly-endless legal hoops associated with their death don’t stain the memory of how they lived.  For the beneficiaries – the people who will be receiving what’s left of an estate – the death is just the beginning. Read on to learn more about what probate entails, and how you should prepare for the process.

What is Probate?

At its most basic definition, probate is the process through which a will is executed. After a death, the estate of the deceased is processed and divided amongst beneficiaries. It’s a lengthy and usually frustrating process, and unfortunately, there is plenty of opportunity for infighting along the way. Probate requires many steps, and right from the start, the beneficiaries can dispute the instructions left behind by the deceased.

The first step of probate is to authenticate the will. After all, you can’t act out the will’s instructions if they aren’t completely legitimate and legally-binding. Once the will is authenticated, beneficiaries need to be notified, and the executor will need to be named. This is assuming the will hasn’t named an executor already. The executor is the person chosen to oversee probate on behalf of the estate – if you aren’t the executor, breathe easy: Your life just got a whole lot easier, and you dodged a massive workload.

After the executor is named, the assets listed in the will need to be located. These assets also need to be assigned a value, which usually involves paying outside help to come in and determine the worth of whatever’s being left behind for you and the rest of the beneficiaries. Once the assets are valued, any creditors need to be paid off if the deceased died before they could pay off all of their debts. Then, fees and taxes will need to be paid before the beneficiaries finally – finally – get whatever’s left over.

Probate involves numerous hoops, and at every twist and turn there’s an opportunity for dispute. Someone might not agree with the choice of executor, and may want to have them removed. Or someone may disagree with the value of a certain asset, and request a reassessment. It’s up to the executor to make sure the will is carried out according to the wishes of the deceased, but wills (unfortunately) can’t make everyone get along.

Get in Touch with an Estate Planning Lawyer

If you’re trying to plan your future and want to spare your family and friends any difficulty after your death, it’s a smart idea to get in touch with an estate planning lawyer. Even if you’ve just been named a beneficiary in someone else’s will, it helps to get as much information as possible directly from a legal expert. Don’t hesitate to reach out to an estate planning lawyer as soon as possible.