If you’re reading this story, there’s a good chance you don’t have a Will or Living Trust. Or perhaps you have a Trust, but you created it nearly 20 years ago and it’s sadly out of date. Unfortunately, this is the case for nearly three-quarters of Americans. There’s a perception that Wills and Trust are for old people—people think they’ll have plenty of time to prepare end-of-life documents “when the time comes”, but life often intervenes.

Life is full of uncertainties

The reality is that anyone with assets and dependents should have a Living Trust, and if incapacitated, having an updated Living Trust, Power of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directive in place can save your family considerable time, money and anguish at what will undoubtedly be a very difficult time. Without a Will or Living Trust, your family will have to go through Probate.

Some good news: you don’t need an attorney for Uncontested Probate

If your Probate case is uncontested—if none of the potential heirs is contesting the settlement, you do not need an attorney, and DP Legal Solutions can assist you, saving considerable money.  We recently assisted a client with a Probate case that is a very sad story. There’s no happy ending here, and the outcome easily could have been less tragic if the deceased had simply taken the time to prepare a Living Trust.

Sonya and Jeannie, life partners for 25 years

Sonya was a 62-year old accountant, and she and her partner, Jeannie, had been together for 25 years. They had not married, as many gay couples had done when it became legal in 2015, to leverage the legal benefits of married partners.

Sonya and Jeannie were both active, healthy, loved their jobs and assumed they would marry sometime in the next few years. Jeannie was a longtime project manager for a large construction company, often working on international projects that necessitated frequent travel. It was on one of these projects that she lost her balance on a scaffolding and fell 3 stories to the ground, hitting her head on truck when she landed. She was rushed to the local hospital, but she’d broken bones, had internal injuries and a skull fracture; despite the trauma team’s heroic efforts, she never regained consciousness.

Sonya lost her partner and her home

Sonya had tragically lost her partner of many years, but along with her grief, there were the realities of dealing with Jeannie’s death. Jeannie had owned the San Leandro home in which they lived but had never added Sonya’s name to the title. They’d done a lot of work on the home together, including landscaping. In addition to her home, Jeannie had a life insurance policy and a brokerage account. It had always been her intent to leave her assets to Sonya, her life partner, but Jeannie had never created a Will or Living Trust.

Line of succession: family comes first

The line of succession in this case included Jeannie’s parents and two siblings—all of whom were now dead. Jeannie’s remaining family consisted of six nieces and nephews who were scattered around the country. For a range of reasons, including her frequent travel, Jeannie had never established much of a relationship with these nieces and nephews and their families, but it was among these people that Sonya would now be splitting Jeannie’s estate.

How DP Legal Solutions assisted Sonya with Jeannie’s Probate

As part of Probate, the Court appoints a personal representative, or administrator, to settle the estate, so we work with that administrator throughout the Probate process. In this case, Sonya became the administrator, because she knew that Jeannie would have wanted her to do this. Sadly, Sonya could not afford to purchase the home that she had happily shared with Jeannie for so many years. Instead, it became part of the estate that she was responsible for selling so that she could settle the estate and distribute it among Jennie’s nieces and nephews. As the administrator, Sonya was responsible for:

  • Collecting all Probate property of the decedent
  • Paying all debts, claims and taxes owed by the estate
  • Collecting al rights to income, dividends, etc.
  • Settling all disputes
  • Distributing or transferring the remaining property to the heirs

Access to the decedent’s accounts

The Court-appointed administrator will be able to gain access to all of the decedent’s records–bank statements, savings accounts and income tax returns, to fully understand the financial landscape. This may include valuing assets, taking physical custody of assets and selling assets, as necessary, to pay off debts or expenses.

During Probate, the deceased’s estate becomes a separate tax entity, so the administrator must obtain a federal identification number and open a bank account in the name of the estate, from which to pay creditors. It is also necessary to file the estate’s tax return and a final individual tax return.

Distribution of remaining assets

Once all taxes and debts have been satisfied, the Court will then distribute any remaining assets according to state law.

Uncontested Probate is a growing practice area for us. If you’re facing Probate, contact DP Legal Solutions for more information today. We guide you through every step of the process.