You have just lost a loved one, and now comes the dreaded words: you need to go to probate. Sure, dealing with a court is never fun. However, there are things you can do to make the process easier on your family. Here are three keys for a successful probate.
Hire the Right Probate Lawyer
Some people will tell you that you do not need a lawyer for probate. True, the rules allow parties to represent themselves in all cases – including probate. But is that smart? Oklahoma probate law is highly complex and technical. Any mistakes in following the procedures can lead to months of delays or, worse yet, subject the personal representative to legal liability. So, what should you look for in a lawyer? My recommendation is to find someone who specializes in estate planning and probate. Further, good organizational skills are a must since probate has a lot of moving parts.
Communicate Early and Often
The last thing you want is dissension among the family. In my experience, the number one cause of disputes in probate is lack of communication. The personal representative might be doing everything by the book. Nevertheless, if he or she keeps other heirs in the dark, suspicions tend to grow. For that reason, I always advise clients to go beyond the basic notice requirements and be fully transparent about all aspects of the probate, from the assets of the decedent to creditor claims and administrative expenses.
Follow Court Orders
Throughout a probate, the court will issue various orders. It is vital that the personal representative follow them. It may not seem like a big deal as long as you are “doing the right thing”. Unfortunately, title examiners, banks, real estate agents and others working with an estate do not always see it that way. These parties want to know that the personal representative is operating within the law and has full legal authority to perform the action in question. If you are unsure about the particulars of an order from the probate court, ask your lawyer.
Probate takes time, but it does not have to cause misery. By hiring the right probate lawyer, communicating well and complying with court orders, you can ensure a successful process.