A relative’s death brings up a wide swath of emotions that can become both a binding agent for families as well as a point of strife. The finality of a last will and testament can cause rifts amongst family members who have to contend with the asset distribution of their deceased loved one in the middle of their grieving process.
Understanding the probate process
When your relatives die, their estate must typically go through the probate process. During this process, a will should designate an executor, and if there is no will present, a court will have to choose a representative. The subsequent probate process will then involve the following procedures:
- Notices of the person’s death to any heirs and creditors
- An executor organizes the payment of any debts and liens on existing properties
- Tax returns are filed for the person’s final income (California has no state inheritance tax)
- Heirs are identified and assets are inventoried before being distributed
How disputes arise
The complexity of an estate can be a significant stressor on the family members involved. For larger estates, compounding factors, like properties in other states, substantial debts and creditor claims, plus the presence of more complicated assets like business ownership or company equity, can create a challenging distribution process. Other common causes for a dispute may come from a contested will if family members question the validity of a will or take issue with the will’s distribution. Additionally, the person named as executor may not be up to the challenge of overseeing the many necessary tasks of the probate process.
Finding the right process for your family
If you have to deal with the estate of a loved one, it is essential to find an attorney with experience in estate planning and the probate process to guide you through this challenging time.