Learn Important Probate Essentials, including key things that go wrong in an estate, how to prevent them, and what to do if they happen.
Over the last few months we’ve written a lot about conditions that slow the probate process down. Considerably. We’ve picked on the Prince estate, but only because it’s continuously in the news and serves as a perfect example for a lot of what can go wrong. But, things don’t always have to go wrong for the probate process to grind to a slow crawl.
Here’s a quick rundown of the some of the more common things that make probate more of a marathon than a sprint.
A lot of beneficiaries. Extended families or someone with just a lot of friends, a testator leaves pieces of the estate to a bunch of people. Each and every beneficiary, no matter how small the bequest, has to be contacted by the executors. Some wills and trusts were executed decades ago, people move or die in the interim, if they’re a beneficiary of estate they have to be found or accounted for. Even in the 2010s this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Not everyone, believe it or not, is on Facebook. Not every death can be found by a Google search. This can get even more complicated if a beneficiary lives in another country.
If an estate has to file an estate tax return with the IRS, probate cannot close until the filing is complete. As with most things connected with the IRS, this will not go quickly. Let’s put it this way – the return won’t even show up on the IRS’ computers until roughly three months after they receive it.
Something we have written extensively about over the last six months – hard to value assets. We’ve seen this with all types of collectibles, operating businesses, intellectual property, assets that may be very valuable but don’t have a ready market, many others. The only thing they have in common is the ability to slow down the probate process.
If you’ve read just a couple of our posts over the last year and one half you saw this one coming – family disputes. Actually, it doesn’t have to be family only, a dispute among the beneficiaries is just as disruptive, if not as emotionally wrought. Disputes inevitably mean that every decision the executor makes is questioned. Worse, the beneficiaries ‘lawyer up’ and take the estate to court … or, just the threat of litigation forces the executor to seek the probate judge’s permission for even the simplest transactions. No matter how it goes down, beneficiary disputes will slow the probate process precipitously.
An executor who’s not good with finances and/or record keeping – for whatever reasons – will slow the process to a crawl. This is a pretty common reason for a slow probate process. The overwhelming majority of executors have a life beyond dealing with probate. Work, family, work, dealing with probate court is another job on an already busy schedule.
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