Probate Courts Help Guide the Administrator
Probate courts handle a variety of duties; however, one of their primary functions is to oversee probate estates. Whenever a person dies, their assets and personal belongings must undergo the probate process before distribution to beneficiaries can take place. The only way to avoid probate is through the execution of a living trust.
When estates are transferred to probate courts, an estate administrator is assigned. When decedents execute a Last Will and Testament, they designate someone as their personal representative. In most cases, it is recommended to designate two estate administrators. The reason being is in the event the first Administrator is unable or unwilling to perform the duties, the second designated Administrator can assume duties without interrupting the case.
If a person dies intestate (without a Will), probate courts generally assign a spouse or direct lineage heir to administer the estate. In cases where there is no spouse or heirs, or if no one is willing to accept the duties of administration, a probate judge will appoint an outsider to oversee the estate throughout the probate process.
At present, probate courts are overwhelmed with administrative duties. Therefore, the probate process can take several months to complete. In instances where family discord exists and heirs contest the Will, probate can last several years. This can place tremendous financial burdens upon the estate and beneficiaries.
Other duties of probate courts include guardianships and conservatorships. Guardianships are arranged for minor children to determine who will have custody of them in the event of their parents death or if their parents are incarcerated. Conservatorships are arranged for adults who are unable to make medical, shelter or financial decisions. Oftentimes, conservatorships are arranged for adults who are mentally disabled, suffer from some form of dementia or terminally ill and unable to communicate.
In essence, probate courts focus on life matters. From estates and trusts to guardianships and conservatorships, probate courts help us work through some of the most complicated and emotional events we might face. Probate laws vary from state to state and most cases require the services of a qualified probate lawyer.
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