The probate process can be avoided with careful estate planning. It is important to make plans to avoid probate before you pass away if you do not want heirs or beneficiaries to be forced to go through the probate process. By transferring assets in other ways, such as transferring assets via trust administration or transferring assets through joint ownership or pay-on-death accounts, it is possible to ensure that there are few or no assets that transfer through probate.
If you make an estate plan to avoid the probate process, you can spare your family the expense associated with the probate process and you can allow heirs or beneficiaries to inherit in a much more timely manner. If you have loved ones who are dependent upon you to provide them with income and who you wish to provide for after you are gone by leaving an inheritance, you may wish to avoid the probate process so the people who are counting on you are not left waiting for months to inherit.
Both the executor of an estate and heirs or beneficiaries need to understand who takes care of estate assets during probate. Taking care of assets is the job of the executor of an estate. The executor must identify all assets that are part of the estate, do a complete inventory, make claims to recover funds owed to the estate and do everything else that is necessary to protect all of the assets.
The executor has a fiduciary duty (the highest duty owed under the law) to the heirs or beneficiaries to ensure that decisions that are made on asset management are made with a focus on the best interests of those who will inherit. An executor is not allowed to misappropriate estate assets for himself and cannot act in a way that would be a conflict of interest that could put his own goals at odds with what is best for the estate.
If you don’t do your job as executor of a will, you could be removed by the probate court judge. Depending upon your actions, it is possible that you could also be sued by heirs or beneficiaries for breach of a fiduciary duty. If you caused financial loss as executor of an estate because you acted in an inappropriate and irresponsible matter– such as if you stole estate assets – you could be sued and could be required to compensate the heirs or beneficiaries for the losses that you caused. You want to ensure that you do your job correctly and are not accused of a breach of a fiduciary duty so you should contact an experienced attorney to get help ensuring that you are able to complete your responsibilities properly when you act as an executor of an estate.
Probate is an inherently slow process because there must be time allowed to provide notice to potential heirs or beneficiaries and to provide notice to creditors. You also have to wait for the court to schedule probate proceedings and you need time to identify all estate assets. Creditors must be given a chance to make their claims, and an opportunity must be provided in case anyone wishes to contest a will. However, while the probate process can take many months, a Long Island probate lawyer can help the process to move as quickly as possible.