The probate process occurs when property is to be passed, due to a death, to the legal heirs. This can be an emotional time for all involved, and sometimes things are overlooked that lengthen the process and make more difficulties than necessary for the survivors. There are things you can do to prevent this situation, whether you are making a will or are one of the beneficiaries of a will.
First, if you are making your will, you should seek the advice of a competent attorney to help you decide the best way to dispose of your assets and avoid unnecessary taxes or problems with division of property. “Do-it-yoursef” will kits rarely give you the flexibility to plan your estate effectively, even if you do not own much property. Further, as they are constructed for mass marketing, they do not take into account various state laws regarding inheritance. Many difficulties have arisen from probate judges refusing to probate “homemade” wills or being unable to interpret them.
Another thing that can delay the process is multiple wills. If you do decide to change your will, make sure that an attorney handles the change for you. Wills can be added to by something called a codicil; they are also nullified by marriage or birth. If you experience a life-changing event, you must consult with your attorney as to how to handle your will changes. A new will should always be drawn up by a lawyer and properly witnessed so there is no doubt of its precedence; further, all copies of old wills should be destroyed.
Finally, if you are a beneficiary of a will, you should submit in a timely manner to any and all requests of the probate court. Most wills name one or two beneficiaries as executors. If you are an executor, meet with the attorney who drew up the will and comply with all requests immediately, in order to ensure that there are no unnecessary delays.