Simply put, probate is a court-supervised process that oversees the transfer of an individual’s assets (i.e. their “estate”) after death. Probate is a complex, tedious, and time-consuming process that is riddled with delays. Heirs almost always underestimate the amount of time it will take for them to receive their inheritance from an estate in probate. On top of the delays, there is often lack of clarity on how the process works.
As an heir, here are some facts that you should immediately understand regarding your role in the probate and inheritance process:
- Contrary to popular belief, the attorney handling the probate estate represents only the personal representative (PR) of the estate. This person may also be referred to as the Executor, Executrix or Administrator of estate. All other heirs to the estate are NOT represented by the estate attorney. Because of this, the attorney is under no obligation to take or return any phone calls, provide general information or legal advice to heirs other than the PR.
- The probate process goes through a number of drawn out steps in most cases before distributing a penny to the rightful heirs. Every estate is different but the following chart gives you a sense of the complexity and drawn out time frame.