When your loved one died, you may have expected to receive an inheritance. Perhaps you were surprised when you learned that you would not receive what you were told you would get. Perhaps you were surprised to learn that substantial assets were removed from the estate by way of alleged gifts. You may wonder what your rights are and whether you can contest the will or challenge the validity of certain provisions or distributions.
The probate process can be complicated and time-consuming, depending on several factors, including the size of an estate and the efficiency of the executor. Settling an estate can be stressful under the best of circumstances, but when the named executor is dragging their feet or becomes untrustworthy, the process can become even more fraught.
In most states, the terms "guardian" and "conservator" are interchangeable. They each refer to a person who is appointed to make decisions regarding living arrangements, medical care, financial and personal matters of a person, referred to legally as a "ward", who is no longer capable of making such decisions for himself. A guardian or conservator may be appointed by a person who is likely to need their services in the future, or may be court-appointed when the need arises if arrangements have not been addressed.
The preparation of a last will and testament is of utmost importance in the estate planning process to insure wishes are carried out according to your will. However, once you have secured a party to act as executor of your estate and have the necessary documents drafted by an attorney, there is an additional step to consider, which can make a huge difference for your grieving family. Write an informal letter of instruction to your executor.
Ask almost anyone who has ever worked within the scope of a probate court, and you will likely hear them all mention one phrase heard time and again... "My family would never be that way." Spoken by parents, children, siblings, cousins, etc., it seems to be a common misconception that once a person is deceased, his or her family will have no problems getting along and agreeing on the distribution of assets. However, this is often not the case. One of the wisest decisions we can make when it comes to our family's peace of mind after our passing is to make sure we have provided a Last Will and Testament as direction.