When a Loved One has died, family members often are absorbed by grief and don’t want to think about dealing with the real estate, bank accounts and other assets of the deceased Loved One. A century ago that might be a perfectly good course. Today, that could be a bad choice for family harmony as well as the decedent’s estate. Here are seven reasons to get the probate process begun soon after the death.
1. Assets can disappear. It’s a sad fact that financial predators read the obituaries for their next prey. Sometimes the predators are neighbors or even family members. A prompt probate proceeding can stop the financial bleeding.
2. Assets can lose value. Depreciation of property, vandalism, stock market crashes and other disasters can rob an estate of its value. Prompt gathering and appraisal of the assets can take the guesswork out of discovering what assets are there and assembling the information necessary for the next step.
3. Assets may need management. If the assets are real estate, investments or a small business, they may require someone in authority to operate them at a profit for the family. A family member or a professional manager may be necessary to protect the assets. Delay can be costly
4. Probate law has deadlines that need to be met. The probate code has a number of time requirements in it. While it is possible to perform some of these matters later, prompt attention to the time requirements of the probate code will usually make the estate administration faster and easier.
5. Inheritances are worth less with the passage of time. Often estates are fixed assets or accounts. Frozen assets waiting for a probate proceeding to begin will be of dwindling value to the heirs. It is fundamental home economics that there is a time value of money. Inflation, lost investment opportunities and immediate financial needs of heirs can mean that the delayed probate will have a lesser value to the family members.
6. Taxes and other debts may become delinquent. The decedent’s taxes, mortgage payments and other financial obligations may fall behind and even go into default. The asset could even be lost to the estate. If the estate’s claims on asset can be retrieved from the government, bank or other creditor, there are often penalties and interest that needs to be paid. The loss of an estate asset or cost of redemption will mean lessened inheritances to the heirs.
7. Last but not least, prompt probates can preserve family harmony. One of the saddest things we see is the family friction that can result from delays in the probate process. Angry siblings, nephews or nieces may refuse to talk to each other for years after the proceeding. Avoiding that is the best reason of all to launch the probate process soon after the death of the Loved One.
Probate law is a niche area of legal practice. Not every attorney has the knowledge and experience to promptly and efficiently conduct your family’s probate proceeding. When a loved one in your family has died, call us for a free consultation.