Why you shouldn’t put off probate | MN Probate Law

Minnesota Formal ProbateMN Probate Law | Why you shouldn’t put off probate

It isn’t uncommon for people to disregard the advice of experts, lawyers included. No matter how many times an attorney says you should take certain steps to address looming problems, there will be those who choose to ignore the advice. Some people aren’t ready to face their issues head on, others are afraid, others may not be aware and some are just downright lazy. Whatever the reason, procrastinating when it comes to estate planning issues can cause serious trouble that then takes time and money to undo.

Rather than simply reiterate the same warnings about the need to act fast, it may be helpful to try a different approach. A recent advice column in the San Antonio newspaper dealt with a probate question from a woman in Texas that exemplifies why dragging your feet rarely pays. In her case, had she not put off the legal issue she would be in a much stronger position today. Instead, she must now hire a lawyer and hope that she succeeds in an effort to unravel the mess that was made by inaction.

The case begins back in the late 1980s, when the woman’s first husband passed away. It was a sad time, for her and her children who had just lost their father. Understandably, she was not very focused on legal obligations, instead worried more about caring for her children and putting the pieces of her life back together. As a result, she never bothered to probate her husband’s estate. Though he had a will, there were few assets to be dispensed with, just their marital home that the two owned together. The will made clear that her husband wanted to leave his share of the house to his wife.

The woman assumed that she did not need to do much given the language of the will, which unambiguously left the house to her. As time went on, the woman met another man and married him several years after the death of her first husband. This apparently caused some friction in the family, especially among the children of her first husband who never got along well with husband number two.

The woman recently told her children that in her will she intends to leave the house to her second husband. The children weren’t happy and appear to be willing to challenge the decision in court. The woman then wrote into the newspaper asking for advice about what she could do to strengthen the language in her will, making it less likely that her children will succeed in challenging her decision to give the house to her second husband.

Though this seems like a fairly simply question, the author of the advice column points out that the woman made a potentially very costly mistake years ago that will now haunt her. By not probating her first husband’s estate, she inadvertently gave her children the legal ammunition they need to challenge her plan to give the house to her second husband. How so?

When her husband died, he owned a half interest in the home. Though his will said that his share would pass to his wife, his wife never formalized this through probate. As a result, Texas now views him as having died intestate, meaning without a will. In Texas, the law when her husband died said that a person’s interest in property passes to his children, not his spouse. That means it’s the children who currently own half the house (along with the mother’s initial half interest).

Title Problems

Right now, if the woman tried to sell the house she wouldn’t be able to, the title company would put a stop to it without the sign-off of her children who legally own half the property. Thankfully, all hope is not lost. The woman can hire an estate planning attorney to file a late claim for probate and argue that the will should be accepted now, even decades later. Her children will have to be notified and can object, but it is possible she will get her rightful share of the house. The moral of the story for everyone should be to avoid waiting decades to solve a problem that could be addressed more easily right away. Putting things off can end up costing more time, money and worry.

Minneosta Probate Lawyers

An experienced Minnesota probate lawyer can help walk you through the probate process, answering questions along the way. For more information on estate planning in Minnesota, along with a variety of other topics, contact Joseph M. Flanders of Flanders Law Firm at (612) 424-0398.

 

Source: http://www.mysanantonio.com/life/life_columnists/paul_premack/article/Late-Probate-of-Will-Requires-Personal-Notice-12227309.php

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