As Mark Twain once said “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
An old coworker of mine used to keep a little plastic frog on her desk as a visual reminder of this maxim.
The “frog” is that one thing you have on your to-do list that you have absolutely no motivation to do. “Eating the frog” means, in true Nike fashion, to “just do it.”
Otherwise, the frog will eat you and you will continue to procrastinate said task and it will never get done.
For many of our probate clients, probating a loved one’s estate is the metaphorical “frog” – the task that they keep putting off.
It’s no surprise that we get a large number of probate files at the beginning of each year. A new year represents an opportunity to conquer those lingering tasks and start fresh.
Many of our clients delay probating a loved one’s estate for one reason or another – the most common excuse we hear is that it is a daunting and (sometimes) costly process.
Put simply, probate is the retitling of assets by a judge out of the decedent’s name into the name of whomever is legally supposed to inherit such assets (as per the decedent’s will, or if none, the decedent’s legal heirs according to state law).
We are always a bit surprised at the number of folks that don’t realize that a will requires probate. Without a probate administration, a will is just a piece of paper.
We commonly oversee two types of probate in our office – formal and summary administration.
Summary administration is a streamlined, cost-effective administration available to estates with less than $75,000 in assets with few or no debts, or in cases where the decedent passed away at least two years ago.
In an attempt to shed a bit of light on the probate process, I’ll outline the typical process and timeline of a formal administration.
- Filing of Initial Probate Pleadings.
- Letters of Administration formally appointing the Personal Representative; Notice to Beneficiaries; Publish Notice to Creditors; Prepare initial Inventory (due within 60-days of appointment as Personal Representative).
- First date of publication of Notice to Creditors – 3 month claims period begins.
- Notice is mailed to all reasonably ascertainable creditors (Personal Representative provides a list/bills to the attorney).
- Claims period expires 3 months following the first date of publication or 30 days after actual notice is given, whichever is later.
- One month after the expiration of the claims period, a Statement Regarding Creditors is filed and arrangements are made to pay creditors, if any, or objections to claims are filed.
- The court appointed personal representative begins to distribute assets and pay final bills.
- A Petition for Discharge and Final Accounting is filed and notice is given to the beneficiaries and other interested parties.
- An Order of Discharge is filed and is due within 12 months of the Letters of Administration.
The typical process for a formal administration takes roughly a year. As Kristen advises, “we tell our clients a year and then they are happy when it takes less time.”
It is our goal to educate our clients about the process, while making it as stress-free (and as quick!) as humanly possible. Our intake forms request the information we need to proceed, and we take it over from there.
Nicole, our probate assistant, does an amazing job of tracking deadlines so that our clients don’t have to.
Eating the figurative frog and tackling your probate issue doesn’t have to be intimidating.
If you have a deceased loved one whose estate needs to be probated, you can schedule a probate consultation with one of our attorneys online here. We charge $47 for a 30 minute probate phone consultation and $97 for a 60 minute probate office consultation.
Amanda “Eating My Frog” Lynch Elliott