Probate Attorney in Brandon, Rankin County, and Scott County
At death, title passes according to one of three ways in Mississippi. First, the title to assets controls the ultimate ownership, assuming that the asset has a title. For example, a bank account or land titled in the name of husband and wife jointly, with right of survivorship, will result in the surviving spouse being the sole owner at the other’s death, without regard to any contrary provision contained in a Last Will and Testament. Second, property passes by beneficiary designation or pay on death instructions. Bank accounts are commonly set up to pay directly to someone designated by the account owner at the account owner’s death, as are investments. Third, if property does not pass by title or beneficiary/pay on death designation, then it will pass according to the applicable estate laws in Mississippi, being either by Intestate Succession (death without a Last Will and Testament) or by Bequest (death with a Last Will and Testament.)
The process for transferring property after one’s death if there is no Last Will and Testament is called Intestate Succession. This is a rigid process that is controlled by Mississippi law. Assets go where the law says they go, without any deviation. This process is also referred to as an Administration. The Administration process is not desirable and is easily avoided by execution of a Last Will and Testament.
A Last Will and Testament is a document that a person executes to control the distribution of assets at death. Formal recognition of the Last Will and Testament and the process by which the provisions of the Will are put into effect is called “Probate.” A Will must contain certain language and it must be executed in a certain manner for it to be valid.
When to Seek the Help of a Probate Attorney
When a family member dies, it is advisable to schedule an appointment with an attorney experienced in Probate as soon as possible. In this meeting, the attorney will provide advice on how to handle various matters related to death and also determine whether probate is necessary. Often, probate is unnecessary because assets are already handled by other methods of transferring title. It is important to engage the attorney early in the process to make sure that everything is handled properly and to avoid any future problems with assets.
If probate of the Will is necessary, a probate attorney will prepare documents necessary to have the Will formally recognized by the Court and to appoint an Executor, which is the person named in the Will to officially carry out the provisions of the Will. The Decedent’s creditors much be provided notice of death and the notice must be published in the newspaper. Creditors have 90 days from the date of first publication to file documents showing they are entitled to payment of their debt from assets covered by the Will. After the 90 day period expires, the attorney usually will be in a position to guide the Executor through closing the estate, paying valid creditor claims and distributing assets to the beneficiaries. The probate process will take a minimum of approximately 4 months but could stretch out much longer, depending on the situation.
Probate Attorney Expertise
It is critical that the Executor of the estate engage an experienced attorney to guide them through the probate process. Executors are responsible for managing all of the estate assets for both the creditors and the beneficiaries. They are often in control of significant monetary assets, business interests, land and personal property. Because of this, the Courts hold Executors to a high standard and expect nothing less than professionalism and competency in managing the assets. Executors that mismanage money or use estate funds for their personal gain will likely find themselves at best, discharged as Executor and worst, on the wrong end of a felony charge. Guidance by an experienced attorney will make sure that proper decisions are made and that the Executor properly handles the estate.
Contact a Probate Attorney Today
If you are in need of assistance with estate administration and probate law, contact a probate attorney today.