“I don’t really want to use a probate attorney, I just want to get the (deceased parent’s) assets transferred to my siblings and I.”
I actually heard this recently. While I fortunately don’t hear this directly from prospective clients very often, I’m sure it is probably a pretty common sentiment. I’m sure many people think that it should be a simple thing, to just wave a magic wand and make a decedents assets pass to them without any formal administration.
There are ways to plan for that kind of easy transition of assets (minus the magic wand), but once a loved-one has passed, we are generally stuck with whatever plan (or lack thereof) we were left. Here’s a quick rule of thumb: after the death has already occurred, you don’t really get to choose whether formal probate administration is necessary or not. In Indiana, if the decedent’s assets (owned solely by the decedent, with no beneficiary or transfer on death designation) exceed $50,000 in value, then you’re going to need to proceed with formal estate administration.
Now, as with any rule of thumb, there are some nuances and details that must be explored by an expert before making a final determination as to whether probate administration is necessary or advisable.
The most important thing to know is this: unless you are a probate attorney, you probably don’t know whether you need to go through probate administration or not, and you shouldn’t be expected to. I know you probably don’t “want” to go through probate, or “want” to hire an attorney to guide you through it, but in many situations it’s not really your choice to make anymore. If you need to administer a decedent’s assets, you need to consult with a probate attorney. You may get good news, that formal probate administration is not necessary, or you may get bad news, but at least you’ll know with confidence that you’re proceeding down the right track. In addition, you’ll be able to obtain guidance on other issues that must be addressed when a loved-one passes like dealing with taxes, debts tying up other loose ends. By obtaining the advice of an experienced probate attorney you can also help minimize your potential fiduciary liability and avoid common pitfalls which lay in wait for the unwary.
If you have recently lost a loved-one and have questions about how to wrap up the decedent’s affairs, please feel free to contact us for a consultation…even if you don’t “want” to.