Probate Process

If you’re like most people, you put a lot of time and thought into your last will and testament. This legal document allows you to provide for your family, even after you’re gone. It also ensures your assets will be handled according to your wishes.

Before the terms of your will can be carried out, it will most likely be subject to probate. This is the process of proving a will’s authenticity, collecting assets, paying debts, and finally, distributing inheritances. Not all estates go through probate. In New Mexico, estates worth less than $50,000 will be subject to summary probate, which is a much shorter and less complex process.

However, if your assets total $50,000 or more, you should understand probate and all that it entails. That way, you can take the proper steps to protect your assets and your family.

What Happens During Probate?

The first step involves authentication of your will, which ensures it’s valid, legally binding, and wasn’t fraudulently created. Next, a personal representative, or executor, will be chosen to oversee probate. The executor can be a friend or family member, or it can be a professional, such as an attorney or accountant. If you don’t appoint an executor within your will, the court will do so on your behalf.

The executor will be responsible for locating your assets. This is usually a straightforward process, unless you own many properties in different states. Once assets are located, the executor will value them and submit a record to the court naming each item’s value.

Remaining debts must be paid off, which involves locating creditors and determining how much money is owed to each. Once debts are paid, and the deceased’s final income tax return is filed, assets can be distributed to heirs as directed by the will. 

What Issues Can Arise During Probate?

You hope for a smooth, seamless probate process to benefit your family, but this isn’t always the case. Common probate issues include:

  • Heirs challenge the validity of the will, stating is was made under duress or the deceased wasn’t in the proper frame of mind.
  • The executor you name is not interested in playing the role, in which case the court would need to step in.
  • Someone disputes the value of an asset, such as a home or another property.
  • There are multiple wills and there is confusion regarding which is the most recent.
  • The executor mismanages assets or appropriates them for personal gain.

How Can I Prevent Probate Issues?

Many of the probate issues listed above can be avoided by creating a valid, legally binding will that clearly states your wishes and desires when it comes to your assets. In New Mexico, Walk-In Wills has assisted numerous clients protect their assets – and their families – by making sense of the estate planning process.

In addition to our knowledge of will creation, we can also help you build a trust, perform Medicaid planning, and manage estate distribution. Please call (505) 903-7000 to schedule a free one-hour consultation. You can also contact us for more information.

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