York Probate Lawyer
The probate system in York is designed to help individuals and families settle the estate of a loved one who has passed away. This happens during the most difficult of times, as you are grieving the loss of a loved one. At the same time, you are also dealing with the stress of handling their finances and property. Unfortunately, there is not much time to grieve when you are busy handling all the paperwork and logistics associated with probate. That is why having an experienced York probate attorney by your side is essential to alleviate common legal burdens and allow you more time to grieve.
Representing York County Probate Cases
At Mack & Mack Attorneys, we can put our extensive experience handling probate cases in York to work for you. We understand each detail of the process and can help you navigate the system as quickly and efficiently as possible. We ensure all the necessary paperwork is filed and that the estate is settled fast. We understand this is difficult for you and your family, and we do everything we can to make the process painless.
If you are presently in the middle of a probate case or litigation, or if you are preparing to deal with the estate of someone who has passed away, contact Mack & Mack Attorneys today. We can answer any of your questions and help you through this difficult time.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal process of administering everything in a deceased person’s estate, distributing all items of value, and resolving all claims. This is to carry out the final wishes of the deceased person as stated in their will, or if the deceased person did not have a will, in accordance with state intestacy laws. A probate court oversees the entire process to ensure all claims are resolved and that the estate is properly distributed.
Understanding the Probate Process
The entirety of the probate process can be broken down into six distinct stages:
- Determining estate assets and liabilities. The first step in probate is to inventory all of the assets and liabilities of the estate. This includes everything from houses and cars to bank accounts and investments. All of these assets must be valued appropriately so that they can be distributed according to the terms of the will or intestacy laws. Assessing each asset’s exact value also helps determine tax liability to ensure the estate does not owe any taxes once it is distributed.
- Filing all official documentation with probate court. Once the assets and liabilities have been determined, all the necessary paperwork must be filed with the probate court. This includes the will, if there is one, as well as a petition to open probate. The executor of the estate is also formally appointed at this time. Any supporting documentation, such as asset valuations, must be filed along with the initial paperwork.
- Notifying creditors and interested parties. After the probate court has been officially notified of the death, all creditors and interested parties must also receive a notification of the life event. This allows them to file any claims against the estate to ensure they are paid once the estate is distributed. All creditors have a limited time period in which to file their claim, so you need to notify them quickly.
- Paying debts and taxes. Once all claims have been filed, the executor of the estate can begin the process of paying off any debts and taxes owed by the estate. This includes any outstanding credit card bills, mortgages, or other loans. All taxes owed by the estate, such as federal and state income taxes, must also be paid at this time.
- Distributing assets to beneficiaries. After all debts and taxes have been paid, the estate executor can begin distributing the estate assets to the beneficiaries. From houses and cars to bank accounts and investments, each beneficiary receives their share of the estate according to the terms of the will or intestacy laws. With the help of the probate court, the executor ensures all assets are properly distributed to avoid any disputes.
- Closing the estate. Once all assets have been distributed, the estate executor files a petition to close probate with the court. This officially ends the probate process and allows the estate to be formally closed.
Each of these steps must be completed before moving on to the next, as they all build upon each other. This helps to protect the estate’s interests and all involved parties to ensure the probate process is carried out legally.
What Assets Are Included in Probate?
Not all assets are subject to probate, as some can be transferred outside of probate through other means. These assets are typically titled in a way that allows for them to be transferred without going through probate, such as joint ownership or beneficiary designation. However, any assets solely in the deceased person’s name generally need to go through probate.
Some common examples of assets that may need to go through probate include:
These are some of the most common examples, but there may be other assets that are subject to probate as well. The best way to determine if an asset needs to go through probate is to speak with an experienced attorney.
How Long Does Probate Take?
The time frame for probate can vary depending on the size and complexity of the estate, as well as the jurisdiction in which it is being handled. In general, however, the probate process can take anywhere from six months to two years to complete.
It is important to note the probate process can be delayed if there are any challenges or disputes that arise. For example, if a creditor files a claim against the estate or if there is a disagreement among beneficiaries, the process can be delayed while all parties involved work together to resolve the issue.
Other factors that can affect the length of probate include:
- The number of assets in the estate
- The number of creditors and beneficiaries
- The location of the estate
- If the will is contested
What Do Probate Attorneys Do?
York County probate lawyers specialize in the probate process and can help executors with all aspects of the estate. They are experts in both state and federal probate laws, which means they can help ensure the process is carried out correctly without penalty or delay.
Common responsibilities of probate attorneys include:
- Filing the necessary paperwork with the court on-time
- Notifying creditors and beneficiaries of the estate
- Collecting funds from life insurance policies and retirement accounts
- Paying debts and taxes on behalf of the estate
- Transferring ownership of assets to beneficiaries
- Defending the estate against any legal challenges
- Closing the estate with the court
Probate attorneys can be a valuable asset to executors, as they can take on many responsibilities and help resolve any issues that the average person may not be equipped to handle.
Difference Between an Estate Lawyer and Probate Lawyer
There is a difference between an estate planning lawyer and a probate lawyer when dealing with the probate process:
- Estate lawyers typically deal with the planning and administration of an estate. It is a much more proactive approach, as estate lawyers typically work with clients while they are still alive to help them plan for what will happen to their assets after they die. Common responsibilities include drafting wills, trusts, and Powers of Attorney to help clients protect their assets and loved ones.
- Probate lawyers, on the other hand, deal with the estate after the owner has passed away. Their primary responsibility is to help the executor with the probate process, which includes handling all of the paperwork, managing asset distribution, and resolving any legal challenges that may arise.
While estate lawyers and probate lawyers deal with an estate’s administration, they typically have different roles and responsibilities. It is essential to consult with an attorney early on to determine which type of lawyer you need for your specific situation.
How to Avoid Probate
There are a few different ways you can avoid probate, depending on the size and complexity of your estate. These include:
- Creating a trust. A trust is a legal entity that can hold assets on your behalf. This means the assets in the trust are not subject to probate because they are not technically part of your estate.
- Designating beneficiaries. Many assets, such as retirement accounts and life insurance policies, allow you to designate a beneficiary. That means the assets go directly to the beneficiary after your death without going through probate.
- Giving gifts. Another way to avoid probate is to give gifts to your loved ones while you are still alive. These can be in the form of money, property, or assets.
While there are ways to avoid probate, it is not always possible. If you have a large or complex estate, it is likely that at least some of your assets must go through probate. In these cases, it is important to consult with an experienced probate attorney to ensure the process is carried out correctly.
Tips to Make the Probate Process Easier
There are a few things you can do to make the probate process easier, both for yourself and your loved ones. These include:
- Planning ahead. One of the best things you can do to make the probate process easier is to plan ahead. Create a will or trust, designate beneficiaries, and take care of any other loose ends before you die.
- Communicating with your loved ones. Another important thing to do is to communicate with your loved ones about your wishes. Let them know what you want to happen with your assets after you die, and make sure they are aware of any specific instructions you have. This can help avoid common disputes and keep peace among those you care about.
- Hiring a probate attorney. Finally, with such a complicated process, it is often helpful to hire a probate attorney who is formally trained and experienced in dealing with probate. Having a subject matter expert on your side helps avoid common pitfalls that can leave families feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
What Qualities Do You Need in a Probate Litigation Attorney?
If you are considering hiring a probate attorney, there are a few qualities you should look for.
- First and foremost, you need an attorney who has experience in dealing with probate. They should be familiar with the process and the law, and they should have a successful track record of helping families through the probate process. When consulting with prospective attorneys, be sure to ask about their experience and how they have helped other families in the past.
- The probate process can be emotionally charged, and you want to make sure your attorney is someone who is going to be understanding and compassionate. They should be there to support you and your loved ones during this difficult time, and they should be able to provide guidance and advice when needed that is delicate to the situation.
- Good communication is essential in any attorney-client relationship, but it is especially important when dealing with something as sensitive as probate. You should make sure your attorney is somebody you feel comfortable communicating with and who is going to keep you updated on the status of your case on a regular basis.
Contact Mack & Mack Estate Planning Attorneys
If you need help with the probate process, Mack & Mack Attorneys can help. Our team of experienced probate attorneys has helped countless families through this difficult time, and we can do the same for you. Get in touch with us today to schedule a consultation. We will review your case and answer any questions you may have with compassion and understanding. Let us help you take the stress out of probate so that you can focus on what matters most — your loved ones.