What is “Probate?”
Probate is the legal process of winding up the affairs of a deceased person. It involves gathering up their property, paying debts, taxes and expenses, and then distributing the estate to the heirs. Even if the deceased person has taken measures to “avoid Probate” there may still be the details of transferring property. It is a necessary process but it comes at a time when loved ones are grieving and understandably not all that interested in the paperwork and minutiae of handling an estate or effecting transfers of property. And that’s where an attorney can help, by preparing transfer documents and filings in Probate Court, if needed, and making sure the process runs smoothly and efficiently.
Like just about everything else in life, your estate needs a plan; you want to make sure that things are in order so that your property goes where and to whom it needs to with the least trouble and effort for your loved ones. An attorney can help answer questions and guide you through the issues to arrive at a plan that best suits your individual needs and the needs of those close to you whether by use of a Will, a Trust, or other transfer-on-death devices, or a combination thereof. The right estate plan should simplify the entire process and leave your heirs with a clear path to settling your estate.
Power of Attorney – Guardianship
There are times, due to physical and intellectual limitations, when we need to rely on others to make decisions for us, take action in even the simplest daily activities, which we once took for granted. A Power of Attorney is a document by which one person (the principal) gives another person (the agent) the legal authority to act on his or her behalf. The Power to act can be as broad or as limited as the principal needs or desires. A Guardianship is similar to a power of attorney, but court-supervised; the Probate Judge grants a Guardian or Conservator legal authority to act on another’s (the Ward’s) behalf. The Guardian acts with Court approval and provides reports and accountings to the Court concerning his actions on the ward’s behalf. Guardianships can be as broad or as limited as the ward’s needs dictate.
Dissolution and Divorce
If you have ever considered Dissolution or Divorce, you probably have more questions than answers. Mixed in with all the stress of the emotional issues are the financial, custodial and logistical considerations to sort out. There is no one size fits all, and it’s crucial to find effective legal advice in negotiating the transition. While you may feel you are hemmed in without any choices, discussions with an attorney may reveal options and alternatives you had not considered. If you are further along in the process and have been served with divorce papers from the Court, and are wondering about your rights, duties and obligations, contacting an attorney is a necessity; you need to respond with pleadings, and plan a clear path forward.