In 1969, an effort was made to standardize and simplify the probate process among the 50 states through a set of model probate laws called the Uniform Probate Code (UPC). However, since its first draft, only a handful of states have adopted the UPC in its entirety. While probate laws don’t vary wildly among states that didn’t adopt the UPC, there are differences among them.
How does probate vary from state to state?
Many states allow a simplified summary probate for smaller estates, and what qualifies as a “small” or “large” estate is also determined by states. For example, in Arizona, full probate is not required on personal assets of $50,000 or less. In California, estates of $150,000 or less are entitled to use a simplified process or to dispense with probate altogether. In Arizona, estate value is calculated after accounting for liens and encumbrances. In California, the estate’s value may not include life insurance, out-of-state real estate, or property owned jointly by a surviving spouse.
How can an unclear understanding of state law regarding probate affect its outcome?
Variations in deadlines, civil procedures, and interpretation of terms can lead to real losses when assumptions are made about state probate statutes. For example, in the case Payne v. Stalley, 672 So. 2d 822 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1995), a Michigan-based family filing a substantial claim against a Florida estate missed a filing deadline and received a harsh retort from the judge that “[w]e cannot rewrite Florida probate law to accommodate a Michigan attorney more familiar with the Uniform Probate Code.”
How does a state-licensed attorney aid in the probate process?
Because the probate procedure depends on both the state where the decedent lived at the time of death and other states where the decedent owned property, a knowledgeable, state-licensed estate attorney can provide invaluable legal guidance to an estate executor, the personal representative usually identified in a will.
Specifically, the attorney can advise and assist with the distribution of assets to beneficiaries, the sale of estate property, and the determination of taxes owed on the estate. Your attorney can also obtain appraisals of property and help settle disputes between the executor and the estate’s beneficiaries.
Hiring an attorney licensed in the state where the probate procedure will take place ensures that all actions required by state laws are fulfilled correctly and promptly, smoothing out a stressful process for grieving family. Call the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lohman to discuss your estate planning needs today.