When a loved one dies, what happens to their property is not always clear. Family members can be denied the use of assets they rely on until the estate settles. Other assets pass automatically to beneficiaries without needing anyone’s approval. At Denker & Zuhdi, PLLC, we understand that the grief of a loved one’s passing is bad enough; you don’t need your emotional turmoil compounded by confusion and delays as the estate is sorted out. We provide meticulous estate planning services to help avoid probate, and we also counsel estate executors so that estate administration challenges can be resolved promptly.
When a person dies, the legal process to distribute the assets from their estate begins. This is called probate. In the probate court, a judge oversees the process that allows a representative of the estate, often called the executor, to perform necessary tasks, which include:
Property in the decedent’s estate is said to be “subject to probate,” because those assets must wait for court authorization before they are released to beneficiaries. When property is subject to probate, it goes under the care of the executor, who has the power to manage the property and a fiduciary duty to make responsible decisions to preserve value for the eventual beneficiaries.
Not all property is subject to probate. Exceptions include:
Items listed in a will are subject to probate, as are intestate assets.
The executor must identify all assets and debts in the decedent’s estate. Sometimes it is necessary to take physical possession of items that might be lost or taken by relatives who feel they are entitled to them. Often, this is in direct contravention of the decedent’s intentions, as stated in the will. However, even if named as the recipient in the will, the heir apparent must wait for the probate process to conclude. The court grants the executor the power to take possession of all items in the decedent’s estate.
Depending on the size of an estate and the quality of the financial records, probate can last for several months, or even more than a year. During this time, beneficiaries can be frustrated and even suffer financial hardship because they cannot access the property that’s been left to them. Assets can even lose value during this time. For these reasons, many people choose to create a trust or find another option so that their intended beneficiaries can bypass probate. Our estate planning attorneys design trusts to ensure a quick transfer of wealth at the appropriate time.
Denker & Zuhdi, PLLC advises clients on estate planning strategies that help them avoid probate and accomplish other goals. We also represent parties in probate proceedings. If you need to establish a trust or settle an estate, schedule a free consultation with one of the experienced and dedicated attorneys at our Oklahoma City law firm. Call us at 405-946-5533 or contact us online today.
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