Probate law is an odd part of the system that people may only have to deal with one or two times in their lives. When someone contacts a probate law office for the first time, they often can be apprehensive about whether the process will be difficult. In many cases, probate is a formality. Here is a look at what probate law is and what will likely make the process easier or harder to deal with.
What Is Probate?
Within the legal system, there are courts that are ready to address concerns about estates after people die. Not all estates have to go to probate, although many minor details end up going through the probate court because that's the place most equipped to deal with them.
Some states have automatic triggers for probate. These usually apply to estates valued at least between a few thousand and a quarter of a million dollars, depending on the state's laws. Without an automatic trigger, someone will have to petition the court for a review.
Who Can Push for Probate?
Virtually any party with a meaningful claim to part of the estate can. Tax and government agencies can ask for probate if they believe they're owed money. The same applies to creditors. Direct descendants, usually children, have the standing to request probate, also. Count surviving spouses in, too.
Sometimes a judge orders probate because the deceased died without a will. It also can be ordered if there isn't a named executor or if the named executors are unavailable or dead. These cases are typically caught during the detail-checking process mentioned in the previous section.
Will Probate Be Difficult?
First, you should fully understand that probate is about protecting people's rights. Foremost, the deceased's right to have their will done with their estate should be protected as much as practicable under the circumstances.
Can probate be difficult? Yes, it can. There are scenarios where families get into fights over assets, such as children claiming that the deceased recently married and that the new spouse committed fraud by coercing the decedent to modify their will.
However, the general course of probate is mellower. For example, a decedent might have only appointed one executor who can't do the job for health reasons. Nothing crazy happens in this scenario, but the court has to appoint an administrator to serve fundamentally the same role. In other words, probate law is mostly boring and good-natured with a slim chance of being exceedingly dramatic.