Professional Hartford Probate Lawyers
Assistance with probate and estate matters in Hartford & Manchester, CT
The death of a loved one is a difficult time. Among all of the important issues needing attention, one of these may be carrying out your family member’s wishes. If you’re named an executor in his or her will, you’ll need to take the will through a process called probate to administer the estate properly. And, in the unfortunate event litigation is necessary, you’ll need a skilled litigator on your side to ensure everything proceeds as your loved one planned.
The Hartford estate planning attorneys at Barry, Barall & Spinella, LLC have the resources and experience to guide you through the process and help make probate administration easier. We can handle any problems that arise while you focus on the things most important at this sensitive time. Contact our offices today.
What is probate?
Probate is the process of proving that a will is valid. If your loved one wrote a will before passing, the probate court determines whether or not the will is legally valid. If it is, then the executor of the will can begin the process of paying off debts and dividing up property and assets per the will’s directives. These steps include:
- Determining the validity of the will
- Identifying and inventorying the property of the deceased
- Appraising real or personal property
- Paying the decedent’s debts and taxes
Probate can take approximately six months but may be longer, depending on the number of creditors or whether or not litigation is required. Your Hartford attorney can talk to you more about how long the process may take.
What if my loved one didn’t leave a will?
If your loved one didn’t leave a valid will, then the estate is considered “intestate,” and the court will appoint a representative to handle paying the decedent’s taxes and debts. When an estate is intestate, any remaining assets are divided among family members.
Under Connecticut estate law, spouses and children are given priority, but in the event that there are no surviving spouses or children, the property will go, in this order, to the decedent’s:
- “Kin in equal degree”
If there are no family members who are eligible, the State will take the assets.
Reasons a will might be challenged in Hartford
The majority of families are able to move through the probate process with their attorney relatively easily and efficiently. There are, however, certain instances and situations that can lead to probate litigation. Some of the more common circumstances include:
- Someone has contested the will. In the movies, we often see battles over a decedent’s will resolved by a dramatic discovery of the “real” will, bequeathing everything to the most deserving beneficiary. In real life, however, people contest wills for myriad reasons. Perhaps a child has been left out, or feels he or she has been treated unfairly. Perhaps the decedent made arrangements for his or her business of which shareholders don’t approve. Perhaps the estate plan is unsigned, or makes alarming requests. These are just a few examples of why someone might contest a will.
- Breach of fiduciary duty. There are many people who play a role in how an estate is divided; this may include estate executors, trustees, or agents. If one of these administrators makes an error, or if multiple people are involved, litigation may be on the horizon if they cannot come together to best serve the decedent’s wishes.
- There has been more than one marriage. You might be surprised to learn how often people forget to update their policies and estate planning documents after they divorce and remarry. When children from a first marriage are at odds with children from a second or third marriage, litigation is much more likely.
- There is an ongoing revenue stream. When a person with a substantial estate passes on, but the estate is still owed income by a third party – sometimes for years at a time – litigation could be more likely. Additionally, that income will be taxed both by the state and federal government. You might also face challenges from shareholders, if the revenue comes from a large-scale business or corporation.
Why do I need a Hartford probate lawyer?
In general, it is a good idea to speak with a probate lawyer after your loved one passes away, to ensure there will be no difficulties regarding your loved one’s will and other estate planning documents. However, you should consult with a probate attorney as soon as possible – to protect yourself and your loved one’s wishes – if:
- Anyone contests the will for any reason
- Multiple wills are presented in court
- Shareholders or other members of the business have made claims on the estate
- The estate has significant assets and/or debts, and especially if those assets and debts were previously hidden or unknown
- There is disagreement within the family about how to administer the estate, or you believe the administrator has breached his or her fiduciary duty
- You question claims made by creditors, or the estate is too small to pay off the debts accrued
Our wills and probate attorneys can assist you through the entire probate process. We dedicate ourselves to ensuring probate and any necessary litigation goes as smoothly and easily as possible, while protecting your loved one’s wishes and heirs.
Knowledgeable Hartford probate and estate attorneys
Barry, Barall & Spinella, LLC provides comprehensive legal services for families, individuals, and business owners. If you are facing challenges to your loved one’s will you can rely on us to guide you through the probate process and protect your rights and your loved one’s wishes. Talk to us today. We’re located right off I-384 in Manchester. To schedule a free consultation with one of our estate planning lawyers in Hartford or Manchester, please call 860-649-4400 or fill out our contact form.