Probate Lawyer

Serving South Bend, Elkhart, Mishawaka, Osceola & The Counties of St. Joseph, Elkhart, Marshall & LaPorte

Probate is the opening of an estate to collect the deceased person’s assets, pay that person’s bills and to divide the remainder among the heirs. It involves the preparation and filing of a petition and other papers with the appropriate court. If there is a Will, it is submitted with the petition. A person is appointed by the court to administer the estate in accordance with the directions of the Will that dictate who the beneficiaries are and what they are to receive. If there is no Will, the beneficiaries are identified by the intestate succession laws, which first provide for a surviving spouse and children. If none exist, others such as parents and siblings are next in line. Estates rarely include all of the assets. The estate only includes the assets that do not pass to someone else upon your death by reason of a beneficiary designation, title, or other means.  No one wants to see their life’s work get eaten up by taxes. By planning ahead we can often avoid the probate process all-together.  The probate process can be complex and take time. Trust an experienced law firm to get the results you’re after in the most efficient way possible.

The Executor

One of the major goals of probate is to marshal a decedent’s assets to protect value and ensure that distribution occurs per the decedent’s wishes. To do this, an executor must be appointed to administer the estate.  A decedent’s will identifies an executor of an estate.  This is the person responsible for administering the estate.  While the executor is named in the will, the executor’s authority is evidence by letters testamentary, which are issued by the court.

Who Should Serve as Executor?

When drafting a will, one should give thoughtful consideration as to who is best suited to serve as executor.  The executor could be a trusted family member or friend.  Many people will consider their children as executors.  However, family members might not always be the best choice:

  • The death of a loved one is a stressful time, and serving as executor may be difficult while in the grieving process.
  • Family tensions could arise, as often the executor is called upon to make difficult decisions. To ensure future family harmony, sometimes it is best to have a non-family member serve as executor.
  • While well-meaning, a family member may lack the experience, financial acumen, or temperament to address the myriad issues involved in a probate.
  • Administering an estate can require significant time and effort, which could be difficult for a family-member who has family and job obligations.
  • Serving as executor could impose a financial burden for a family member who might miss some work, or be pressured by other family members not to accept an executor’s fee.

An individual drafting a will should also consider non-family members as possible executors.  This could include a professional fiduciary.  While a professional fiduciary involves cost, it could be a more financially sound decision, as a professional fiduciary can offer relevant education and experience in administering the estate.  We understand the stress that comes with dealing with a probate matter. Knowing all of your legal options can help you make decisions based on facts.. At the Cole Law Firm LLC, we have over 15 years of experience representing family members regarding probate issues, and we know what it takes to accomplish your goals. Call us today for a free telephone consultation.

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