When it comes to probate law, what you don’t know can hurt you. And the worst time to try and navigate a new legal system is when you are grieving the loss of a loved one.
That’s why everyone needs to have a basic understanding of what this practice area is and what probate attorneys do for their clients.
Please keep reading for an overview of probate law and 3 common misconceptions about how it works.
1. Probate Doesn’t Begin After Death
The probate process begins when the client is alive and well – but at that point, it’s called estate planning.
At its core, estate planning is meant to enshrine the wishes of the client should they become incapacitated or pass away. It concerns allocations and welfare of property, assets, and dependents after death, as well as end-of-life and medical care for a person who is alive but not able to make decisions.
Documents such as a will, trust, and power of attorney dictate what should happen to a person’s monetary assets and any children or dependents after they pass.
Others, such as a living will and healthcare proxy, provide specific directions for a person’s medical care if they become incapacitated. This could be almost anything but often deals with issues of do not resuscitate orders, end of life care, and organ donation.
2. Not Having a Will Can Cause Problems
Many people are not aware of just how problematic it can be when a person dies intestate, without leaving a will.
If you die without a will, the state’s laws will determine how they will distribute your property. If there is a surviving spouse, it might all go to them. If there are surviving children, it might be split between them or them and the spouse.
Without clear-cut directions about the decedent’s wishes, things can get tricky fast. Imagine that four siblings inherit a house from their deceased mother. Two of them want to sell the house, and the other two want to keep it and rent it out.
These types of issues can only be settled in court. And this is why probate so often devolves into ugly litigation. Without directions, each relative will act based on their own best interests, not according to their deceased relative’s wishes.
3. It’s Not Just About Assets
After your property is distributed and the probate process is complete, there’s still something left that your family must contend with – your legacy.
Many business owners have put in years of labor and effort into growing their company and accordingly have strong opinions about who should run it after they’re gone.
Imagine learning that your life’s work will be tarnished by an irresponsible relative who drives your company into the ground in the future.
Terrifying, right? That’s why it’s crucial to plan for your business well in advance to preserve the line of succession and enshrine your wishes in writing.
Business owners in the Savannah area should consider reaching out to these business attorneys at Smith Barid, LLC to ensure their company is protected.
Probate Law Is About Planning
It’s never too early to begin thinking about you and your dependents’ futures. It’s not morbid – it’s an act of love and care to ensure that your family will be taken care of after your death.
Now that you’ve learned a little about probate law, it’s time to think about what you’d like to do with your own estate. Reach out to a probate attorney to discuss your options and begin to make a plan.