Probate literally means “the proving of a will.” It is the beginning of the administration of the estate, in most cases, and it is the procedure used to either file the original will—which is required in DC—or have the personal representative appointed begin the administration of the estate. A DC attorney who has experience handling probate matters can be very helpful in simplifying the DC probate process.
Ways Someone Can Simplify the Probate Process
There are a couple of ways that an individual can simplify probate. In DC, if eligible, some estates can be administered “unsupervised.” With unsupervised estate administration proceedings, there are often only two filings required to be filed with the court. Although other reports are required, they are mailed directly to the interested parties.
Another way of streamlining probate is to have an up-to-date and comprehensive estate plan. Often, with careful planning an individual can avoid the more complicated standard probate procedure, and instead, their estate can be opened with just an abbreviated procedure.
Simplifying Probate While Still Alive
During their lifetime, a person has an opportunity to take a number of steps that can assist with simplifying the probate proceeding at death, or at least streamlining it.
First, an updated estate plan can often simplify the probate administration process. It is also often important to make sure that that estate plan is coordinated and comprehensive so that all of the beneficiary designations and ownership of assets are reviewed within the context of the overall plan.
The second important step that people can take to simplify the estate administration probate proceeding is to make sure that they exercise good record keeping during their lifetime so that their personal representative can easily locate their assets and discern whether debts or expenses are valid and enforceable.
Finally, individuals can begin to assemble a team of advisers to plan and assist with the administration of all aspects of their estate, and then continue to work with their beneficiaries. For example, an individual may work with an accountant, financial adviser, insurance adviser, and an estate planning attorney during their lifetime, which may also work to assist the personal representative, trustees and/or beneficiaries at death.
Benefits and Disadvantages of Simplifying Probate
There is really no disadvantage to being as efficient as possible in the probate proceedings. Being efficient and creating an estate plan that is practical and streamlined can often reduce administrative expenses, attorney fees, and other costs. If possible, an individual can sometimes plan on that front, which can result in a reduced or minimized exposure to estate or inheritance taxes.
The biggest benefit to clients and their families is that the quicker the administration procedure is concluded the more that a family can begin to truly heal and grieve the loss of a loved one.
Role of Lawyer in Simplifying Probate
An attorney can assist with simplifying probate because they are familiar with the probate requirements. An attorney can also streamline the process by providing a plan for the administration of the estate. An attorney can assist with marshaling the assets of the estate, paying all the legally enforceable debts, and then making distributions pursuant to the terms of the last will and testament.
In a probate process and administering of estates in general there are a number of overlapping concepts that come into play. First, the District of Columbia has laws that specifically address the probate procedure. In addition to the probate laws, there are a number of different taxing systems, including several District of Columbia and federal tax laws that may be applicable to the estate administration process.
A person may wish to hire an attorney who can help navigate all the different systems, deadlines, and laws that come into effect at the death of a loved one. Often a probate attorney can assist an individual in simplifying the procedures using his or her prior experience in estate matters.