Handling a loved one’s estate after their death can be emotionally trying, and beyond that, it is often very time-consuming. While the probate process often goes smoothly, especially with the help of an attorney, there are several situations that can cause the process to slow down or restart.
Estate Tax Returns
Taxes can add significant complications to estate proceedings, tying up funds and delaying payout. In many cases, estates that must file a federal estate tax return experience the longest delays. These forms often take months to process and verify, putting an indefinite hold on probate.
Estates with traditional and conventional assets—property, businesses, and money, for example—tend to be fairly straightforward. While there may be conflicts over who has the right to this property, it’s easy to assess and determine the value of these assets. When an estate includes unusual items, such as collectibles or illiquid property, the process could take much longer. In many cases, assets must be sold before probate can continue. Since this involves evaluating assets and figuring out their true value before a sale can take place, probate may be held up for months.
Multiple Beneficiaries or Conflicts
When a Will includes multiple beneficiaries, there are several outcomes that can occur. If the Will is crystal clear and indisputable about who receives which assets, this process may go fairly quickly. However, if beneficiaries or other family members dispute the Will, believe they are being cheated out of their assets, or claim fraud, the probate process may come to a halt. Fights between beneficiaries can be extremely disruptive to the probate process and put exceptional strain on the executor. If any beneficiaries retain their own legal counsel to contest the validity of the Will, probate may drag on for months.
While an estate is being settled, the executor or beneficiaries may discover undisclosed property. This throws a wrench into the entire process, since there may be multiple people who believe they have a claim to any new assets. To avoid property being unfairly divided and disbursed, the probate process may be restarted.
In some cases, outright fraud is the reason that the probate process has to begin anew. If an executor or beneficiary intentionally hides assets or legal documents, illegally seizes assets, or overcharges the estate for work done as executor, a probate attorney needs to gather evidence and testimony to ensure that the estate is handled properly.
When the probate process is taking you away from your family, tying up your loved one’s assets, and creating rifts among remaining family members, you need an experienced attorney to provide straightforward counsel. Contact The Probate Law Firm to discuss your probate case.