Probate and Estate Planning

Introduction
The legal process of transferring property upon a person’s death is known as “probate”. Although probate customs and laws have changed over time, the purpose has remained much the same: people formalize their intentions as to the transfer of their property at the time of their death (typically in a will), their property is collected, certain debts are paid from the estate, and the property is distributed.

Probate Administration
Today the probate process is a court-supervised process that is designed to sort out the transfer of a person’s property at death. Property subject to the probate process is that owned by a person at death, which does not pass to others by designation of ownership (i.e., life insurance policies and payable on "death" bank accounts). The probate system exists for the protection of all the parties involved.

What Happens in Probate?
The probate process may be contested or uncontested. Most contested issues generally arise in the probate process because a disgruntled heir is seeking a larger share of the decedent’s property than he or she actually received.

Our firm's  policy of settling only for the just compensation of our clients in preparation to litigate the merits of our clients’ claims have created an unparalleled success for our firm in the area of probate. While most cases due in fact settle out of court our firm is prepared to litigate the matter as soon as we meet with the client on the first visit.

What is Estate Planning?

Your "estate" consists of all property owned by you at the time of your death, including:

  • Real estate,
  • Bank accounts,
  • Stocks and other securities,
  • Life insurance policies,
  • Personal property such as automobiles, jewelry, and artwork.

How Can an Estate Plan Help?

Regardless of your age, or the size and complexity of your estate, an estate plan can accomplish the following:

  • Identify the family members and other loved ones that you wish to receive your property after your death.
  • Ensure that your property will be transferred to those you have identified, as quickly and with as few legal hurdles as possible.
  • Minimize the amount of taxes that will need to be paid in order for your property to pass to others after your death.
  • Avoid the time and costs associated with the probate process by utilizing estate planning devices like living trusts and "payable on death" bank accounts.
  • Dictate the kinds of life-prolonging medical care you wish to receive should you be unable to make your wishes known when the time comes.
  • Set forth the kind of funeral arrangements you would like, and how related expenses are to be paid.

Understanding the estate plan options that are right for you can be a complex undertaking. An experienced estate planning attorney can explain all options available to you in meeting your estate planning goals and fulfilling the needs of your loved ones -- whether you need to revise an existing will or create a comprehensive estate plan from scratch.

 

Frank S. Lombardi, Esq., was the Probate Clerk for the City of Providence for 10 years where he served as the Administrative Head as well as Probate Judge of the state’s largest Probate Court, presiding over many contested probate matters. He has the experience to help you with all of your estate planning needs.