In life, there are many eventualities that we have to prepare for, and one of most – if not the most – important of them is to whom we leave our estate and belongings. This is important especially for those who will be left to handle dividing the estate and deal with legal matters. There are many unknowns that need to be discussed before our loved one passes on so that all of their important possessions and properties will be distributed according to the decedent’s wishes, and not to someone who tries to lay their own claim on the estate afterwards. For these reasons, it is important to hire a probate lawyer so that when a will is brought to court, every last item and asset is distributed appropriately.
What is probate?
In Tennessee, it is required by law that every last will and testament undergoes probate. There is no avoiding it. This is one of the many reasons why it is important that you consider seeking out the advice of a probate lawyer. First of all, let’s make sure we understand what probate actually is. Probate is the legal process of presenting a person’s (testator) last will and testament to the Probate Court. This is done to determine the validity of the document. After that, the court will make sure that the debts of the estate are paid off, and that all remaining assets (property, finances, etc.) are distributed as the will dictates. Essentially, to probate a will means to determine if it’s real and not contested before following through with the orders of the document.
Why is having a will so important?
While it is a common stereotype that only the wealthy and rich need a will, the truth is that if you have any money, property, or children, you should draft a will and make sure it is taken care of properly. With a will, the testator (or person who wrote the will) can decide who gets what after their death. This prevents assets from going to those who are not meant to get them. Not only that, but if the testator were to die, leaving young children behind, a will can dictate who is going to take care of the children. Some people feel that their assets and finances should be given to charity in the event of their death, and a will is a great way to make sure that gets done.
What if someone contests a will?
While a will is there to make sure everything goes to whom the testator wants it to go, there can still be some complications, such as a person contesting it. A will can be contested when individuals – typically people who were not but believe they should have been included in the will – seek to argue against the will in any way. When this happens, the probate process can become lengthy until the issue is resolved by the Court.
There are several reasons why someone may wish to contest a will. For example, they may disagree with how the will was determined if they think someone inappropriately influenced the decedent or that the decedent was not of sound mind when creating the will. A sign that may lead some to think that the will is not correct or valid may be because the will was not legally witnessed, or that none of the decedent’s children were mentioned in the will.
These reasons and more are why it is wise to have a probate lawyer on your side. Our Maryville lawyers at Shepherd & Long can make sure that if someone does contest the will, we will have everything necessary to show that the will is valid.
How to avoid probate litigation
If you want to avoid ending a part of a long and drawn-out lawsuit over the will of your deceased loved one, there are a few steps you can take to help prevent these types of issues.
To make sure that you have a complete handle on the laws concerning probate, it is critical to have a probate attorney on your side. They can help show that the will was properly signed and witnessed by the appropriate people, and they can handle the legal paperwork, which can be a challenge for those who are already dealing with the hassle of undergoing probate.
It is important that shortly before a will is drafted and signed, the testator should see a physician to ensure that the testator is of sound mind to be able to clearly define the conditions of the will.
If the testator is wealthy, he or she may want one of their children to have more money than the other; for example, one of the adult children may be able to support themselves quite well, and is not in as much need as the other child. This is known as dividing assets equitably rather than equally. Perhaps one child needs more money due to special needs or life-long medical treatments. If this is the case, then it may be prudent to talk to the heirs about what to expect and why, and a probate lawyer can help you decide if such a discussion needs to take place in order to avoid a contested will in the future.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts to avoid it, litigation is sometimes the only path forward. If you need a skilled attorney to help you with a will or the probate process itself, Shepherd & Long in Maryville has what you’re looking for. We are well-versed and experienced in probate, and can make this process quick and simple so that you can move on with your life knowing that your loved one’s wishes were effectively carried out. To schedule an appointment, call 865-982-8060, or use our contact page. We know how important it is that your loved one’s last wishes are dealt with honestly and correctly. Let us help.