Probate courts deal with matters pertaining to the estate of a deceased and oversee the distribution of assets after a person has passed on. The word probate refers to the proving of a will: determining if a document outlining the decedent’s last testament is valid or not. Probate cases take different forms, and each one has unique procedures that will follow — especially from state to state. After the death of an individual, it is a requirement for his or her will to pass through the probate process. Understanding the different kinds of cases heard in probate court is imperative. Note that all probate proceedings occur in the place where the deceased was living permanently at the time of death.
1. Contested Will
Contesting a will usually involves heirs or relatives fighting the validity of a document submitted for probate. Various matters can lead to the contest of a probated will. For one, there may be arguments that the testator did not have the mental capacity to make the will. Another is that an individual may have been coerced in some way to make the instrument. A will that did not follow the proper legal protocols can also come into question. Whatever the reason for the contest, enough proof should be available to support it. The representative of the will has the job of defending its contents as valid.
2. Administration of Assets
The court must decide on the originality of the will before an estate can be divided among heirs. A will has no legal effect until this happens, meaning none of the decedent’s estate can be laid claim to. The role of the court, then, is to ensure that the last wishes of a decedent are met. By accounting the decedent’s properties, the court can then distribute them according to the terms of a will. The type of estate and the assets dictate the filing procedures. A probate lawyer in such a scenario may be very helpful.
3. Conservatorships of Adults and their Assets
A conservatorship case happens when a responsible adult or entity is put in charge of a person who cannot care for him or herself. The conservatee can be a young person or an senior who doesn’t have the capability to handle their own estate. A temporary conservator is appointed when the need for one arises suddenly. The type and terms of a conservatorship will depend on a specific case.
4. Guardianship of Minors and their Assets
The appointment of guardianship is another kind of case a probate lawyer would assist with. This is when the deceased has left behind a minor in need of care. If a will outlined a guardian for the decedent’s dependent, then the court has to conduct investigations to see if they meet certain qualifications. If no will was left by the decedent, it is the court’s duty to appoint a guardian while taking the interests of the child into consideration. Courts generally require guardians to make annual reports.
5. Administration of Trusts
Trusts are a common factor in many wills. A trust is left in the care of a trustee who is supposed to oversee the distribution of assets. If there is a need to amend the terms of a trust, or a dispute between different parties involved in the trust, Probate courts have the mandate to hear these kinds of cases.
There are many other kinds of cases that can occur after the death of a loved one. For instance, if your loved one died as a result of someone else’s negligence, a DC personal injury lawyer may be able to assist you with a wrongful death case. However, probate cases are far more common, and are often less adversarial.
For more information, contact a probate lawyer today.
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Thanks to our friends and contributors at Cohen & Cohen, P.C. for their added insight into probate law.[/vc_column][/vc_row]