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What does Probate Mean to You?

For some, the most difficult experience we will endure is the death of a family member. This can lead to long grieving periods, stress, and a melancholy outlook look on life.  This period of time can be emotionally taxing on a family and the last thing they want to think about is the disposal of the Decedent’s personal belongings.  With the assistance of a grief counselor to help with the emotional impact of the loss and an Attorney to help with the legal issues presented, families can get started on the path to healing and peace.

In an ideal world, the Decedent met with a Lawyer and executed a proper estate plan in their lifetime, outlining their wishes after they’re gone.  This may include a Last Will & Testament or Trust, which acts as a road map to describe the distribution of personal items, financial assets, real estate and the like.  If the Decedent executed only a Last Will and Testament, their estate will need to go through the Probate process.  Probate provides oversight of the administration of an Estate, either pursuant to a Last Will and Testament, or when someone passes without a Will, known as dying intestate.   

The First Step

Before any items are distributed, the Will must be approved and deemed legitimate by the Court. A petition must be filed with the Probate Court and that is the venue where any issues will be addressed.  If there are any doubts in the eyes of the Court that the Will was not self-proven, they may Order the witnesses to testify that they in fact witnessed the Testator/Testatrix sign the Will as their free and voluntary act without being under duress or undue influence.  There are other requirements that must have been met to deem the Will enforceable.  In New Hampshire, two witnesses must attest to the person signing the Will and be in the room at the time of the signing.  A self-proving Will executed properly allows the Court to approve the Will quickly and efficiently.

 Finding the Assets

Prior to the distribution of the assets, the Executor or Administrator must first be able ascertain all of the probate assets. While finding expensive vases or vacation homes can seem easy enough, it is common to have to go through every insurance policy or tax return to be sure each account and asset is located. 

Once appointed by the Court, the Executor/Executrix is able to preserve the assets, by making sure any payments towards them are made, like cars or real estate.  However, household contents and personal belongings will be held until the probate process allows for distribution of such items.

Distribution

When the Court deems it appropriate and it is time to distribute or liquidate assets, it can be a daunting task for the Executor, but you need not worry.  We are here to assist you.  Depending on whether monetary or real estate assets are being distributed, arrangements for minors may need to be made.  If a minor inherits a financial gift, the Executor will need to work with the minor’s Guardian to determine how those assets are held until they reach the age of majority. Making distributions to adults can be more streamlined for the Executor by first paying any debts of the estate and in applicable instances, providing an Accounting to the Court showing precisely how the assets were handled and what is remaining to be distributed.  

Losing a loved one can be one of the most devastating and sad experiences in someone’s life which is why it is crucial to know there are trained lawyers who have experience with the probate process who are here to help.  If you need assistance with the Administration of an estate, contact us today and know we will be there to guide you, answer your questions and help you through the probate process.

Contact Morneau Law

Morneau law practices collaborative law and collaborative divorce law, which allows individuals to avoid an adversarial divorce, family law litigation or other disagreement in the court system. This Practice is client-centered and client-controlled. The process begins with an assessment of the individual needs of each client. During our consultation, we will discuss your case to determine the best path forward for you. Contact us today!

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