How do I protect my rights in probate?
Courts can intimidate people. The rooms are large. Lawyers aggressively represent and protect the interests of their client. Clients often feel apprehensive and defensive about the process. If you are finding yourself taking more of a ‘flight’ approach rather than a ‘fight’ approach, you should know there are several steps you can take in order to protect your rights in probate court. Lawyers represent descendant, spouses, or administrators of the deceased.
Stay on Top of Information
You have tight windows to protect your rights. It is important to know where in the process the deceased’s estate is when it comes to administration. Particularly, as soon as families make funeral arrangements, an interested party should check the county probate website for updates.
Make sure the administrator knows your proper contact information. They will have to forward this information over to the court. This ensures that you receive updates about the status of the probate court case. This way you will not miss out because you were not notified properly. In most instances, you should receive certified mail. However, estates eventually serve documents by ordinary mail or publication. Both of these methods offer mere formalities and may not allow you to get timely information.
In situations where you do not trust the administrator of an estate, check the probate court for proceedings. Moreover, if the estate has an attorney, providing them your information will not only keep you in the loop, but also will make their life easier when potential waivers and notices are sent out.
2. Gather the Information You Have
Don’t assume that everyone has the same information you have. People update and revise wills. Also, they fail to disclose the existence of accounts. Furthermore, people fail to inform others of trusts. It is important for you to gather information about the deceased that you have. This can not only protect your rights but also ensures the estate is administered properly. If you fail to do it, there is no guarantee that anyone else will.
3. Know what you sign
Estate administrators instruct family members to sign documents. Also, sometimes, these documents are procedural. Other times, the documents waive your right for contesting a matter or holding a hearing. However, if you do not understand what you are asked to sign, turn to a professional.
4. Consult an attorney.
Lawyers provide people with an understanding of the probate process. They can explain what the process entails. Also, a lawyer will be able to inform you what you can do in court. In some cases, surviving spouses do not know their rights when it comes to their elections. Going through what your rights are with a lawyer ensures that you are doing what you can to exhaust your legal rights.
5. Make an appearance in court.
Decisions are made by those who show up. Therefore, if you fail to attend a court hearing, you rely on the actions of others. This is not how you protect your rights. Furthermore, you must appear in court to preserve your inheritance.
6. Hire an attorney.
You can meet with an attorney, but hiring an attorney triggers the attorney-client relationship. This allows the lawyer to act on your behalf. This representation can result in you obtaining what you are entitled to receive. Therefore, a lawyer ensures that you exhaust all your rights and remedies.