Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

Probate: What is it and can it be avoided?

If you've recently lost a loved one, you likely have a lot of questions about what comes next. You know you need to close out his or her estate, but are not sure what you have to do in order to make that happen. In Utah, you may be required to go through the probate process. What is that and is there any way to avoid it?

People don't usually hear good things about probate. To most it seems unnecessary, expensive and just a way to drag out estate administration. The truth is that there are benefits to going through probate if doing so proves necessary.

Probate is…

Probate is simply the legal process of closing out a loved one's estate. During probate, you may need to address one or more of the following issues, among other things:

  • Concerns over estate plan validity
  • Creditor claims
  • Taxes
  • Distribution of assets

The estate's personal representative is responsible for ensuring everything is taken care of properly and in a timely manner. If your loved one failed to appoint a personal representative, the court will name someone to this position.

Benefits and drawbacks

The main benefit of probate is that is provides a formal process for closing an estate. There is no guesswork to it. Certain steps require completion, so it follows a predetermined path. It also gives beneficiaries a forum to ask questions, bring up any concerns and find answers.

The main drawback to probate is that it can take time to finish up. The law provides creditors and those who may make claims against the estate a specific amount of time to file their claims. This means beneficiaries may not see anything for months or longer if any major issues arise.

Is it necessary?

Not every estate has to pass through probate. It all depends on if a will or other estate planning documents exist, if they are valid and how well written they are. It also depends on the size and complexity of the estate. Not sure if probate is necessary in your case? Speaking to legal counsel can help you find clarity on this matter and get your questions answered.

Closing out a loved one's estate can be difficult. It can feel like a lot of pressure at a time when you are still grieving your loss. If probate is necessary in your case, with help you can get through it as quickly as possible.

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