Why Putting Off Probate Is NOT In Your Best Interest

May 24, 2024

If you recently lost a loved one, we are sorry for the pain you’re going through. Everyone handles death in their own way – some are able to mourn and move forward quickly while others seem to feel stuck in their grief. There is likely no one, though, who feels up to handling complicated legal tasks following the loss of a beloved family member right away.

It’s understandable to be hesitant about probate, and you’ve probably heard stories from others that have you spooked. While probate is notorious for being expensive, time-consuming, and burdensome, it’s important to know that probate does serve a valuable purpose: without it, there is a risk that anyone could claim ownership of your loved one’s property, which wouldn’t be fair or right. In fact, it would be chaos!

It’s also worth mentioning that probate is not some sort of punishment on the part of your relative for anything they did wrong. They probably did not realize how worthwhile a comprehensive estate plan could be, or perhaps they simply ran out of time to put one together.

So yes, probate has a reputation, and it tends to lean toward the negative. However, with the aid of an experienced and skilled attorney, it is possible to get through it unscathed.

If you’ve been putting off taking the first step, now is the time to take action. In this blog, we’ll explain why delaying the probate process any further is not in your best interest and could cause unintended consequences on your loved one’s estate.

Fiscal Efficiency

The expenses involved with probate can add up fast, and only grow the longer it takes to be fully completed. The location, size, complexity, and type of estate plan (or lack thereof) will also have an impact on the total cost. Although these expenses are paid out from the estate itself, there is potential for a rather large chunk to be taken out when all is said and done, which can in turn affect the inheritances that the decedent planned to leave to each heir.

These fees of probate typically include:

  • Court and filing fees
  • Attorneys and executor fees
  • Appraisal fees
  • Publication fees
  • Bond premiums
  • And more!

By beginning the process as soon as possible, you can complete it as soon as possible, thus minimizing the cost of probate and protecting the overall value of the estate.

Timely Distribution Of Assets 

When the probate process is initiated within a timely manner following the passing of the decedent, beneficiaries are also able to obtain their inheritances in a timely manner. Many individuals rely on inheritances for financial support, especially during times of need. They may need those funds to support their educational endeavors, cover medical bills, or make progress toward paying off outstanding debts.

This isn’t to say that probate will happen any faster – you can still expect it to last anywhere between 9-12 months (longer if complications like will contests or family disputes arise). But, the longer probate is delayed, the longer beneficiaries will be forced to wait to inherit their money, real estate, or other valuable assets.

Limited Time For Creditor Claims

Handling of the claims from creditors is a critical step of probate. Unfortunately, debt does not go away when a person passes away, and creditors are permitted to collect debt after their death by making a claim against their estate.

However, they only have a certain amount of time to do so, which varies by state.

In Ohio, a creditor must submit their claim against the estate no later than 6 months following the debtor’s passing. If they fail to do so, then the claim can be denied by the estate, which is under no obligation to pay off the debt.

The claim period for creditors is shortened to 30 days if they were notified of the death directly. Once those 30 days are up, the creditor is no longer able to make a claim against the estate.

This phase of the probate process is complex and if it isn’t handled properly, the executor or personal representative might be held personally liable for some debts. It is best to speak with a skilled and experienced probate attorney to ensure that the correct actions are taken and the estate is protected.

Protection Of Business Interests

Interests in a business, or multiple businesses, typically include any rights or claims to a business entity, such as a corporation, partnership, limited liability company, or sole proprietorship. If they were owned by a deceased individual or as a tenant in common with others, and no transfer-on-death designation existed, they will be considered assets that must be probated. If probate is delayed, this may put the continuity of the business operations at risk.

Salaries, rent, and debts must be paid, and operations must continue, but if the decedent’s assets are locked up in probate, this may not be possible. So, a timely initiation and conclusion of the process is imperative.

Minimized Risk Of Potential Legal Complications

Because there is no strict legal timeframe for opening probate in Ohio, it’s common for some cases to be initiated years after a decedent passed away. This happens most often when the estate has a relatively low value or when the deceased did not leave a will.

Even so, delaying the opening of a deceased family member’s estate may put it at risk of another person – such as a distant relative – doing so. It may also give a disgruntled, disinherited family member the chance to challenge the will and build a compelling case.

Legal complications like these could mean that your loved one’s last wishes aren’t followed, which would be heartbreaking to you and the rest of your family. The timelier the probate process, the better protection it offers against potential challenges from third parties.

Trust Dailey Law Offices To Guide You Through Probate With Speed And Ease

We understand how emotional and mentally taxing the probate process can be for a family in mourning. Our compassionate lead probate attorney, Stephanie Dailey, is here to help make this difficult time as effortless as possible for you and your loved ones, so that you can focus on healing and moving forward. We sit down with you to address your concerns, answer your questions, and offer our support in any way we are able. Call today to book your free initial consultation and discover your next steps.