The death of a loved one is already an emotionally difficult process. Unfortunately, if you’re not prepared, the estate settlement can be hard as well. Here are some of the most common reasons that an estate settlement can take up more time than you’d think.
Lack of Estate Documents
A properly notarized last will and testament can make all the difference. That’s not your only option–a trust should be something else you consider–but having some form of legal documentation in order will go a long way.
It immediately makes it a lot harder for people who are in disagreement to interfere with the desired passing on of assets. A lack of documentation, on the other hand, could potentially mean a mess. For larger assets like properties, that often means that the government has to get involved. Probate court is often the next step.
The Probate Process
Probate is a difficult process even at the best of times. Ideally, the goal of probate is to make sure that every financial box is checked in regard to a deceased individual. That includes paying debt and distributing the assets properly according to what documentation (or lack thereof) there is. The length of the process can vary widely.
It might take a few months, or it could take a year or more. There are also distinct probate laws according to each state although the process is generally the same. You’ll still want to research your state’s specific statutes just in case it’s relevant. Once the process begins, the probate court will review all the deceased person’s assets. Estate taxes will be paid, and at some point, there will be a final petition for distribution.
Balancing Financial Needs and Grief
Figuring out an estate settlement is messy. Relevant family and friends need to be gathered from a variety of places. That can take time and money. Everyone is going to be processing the death differently. Some people who may be important to the settlement process might find being there to be emotionally difficult. It’s possible that taking things at a slower pace could help them adjust more. But you also need to make sure that the process moves along.
There is no perfect way to settle an estate. However, one of the best ways is to prepare long before anything unexpected happens. Having the proper, legal documentation can prevent a lot of heartache, frustration, and financial struggle.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Here’s more to read: Why Many Estates Are Settled Through Court