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Experience With Probate?
Old 09-03-2014, 07:06 PM   #1
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Experience With Probate?

Strange topic but seems to be related to money & finances. My mother just passed away and I'm the executor. I've been involved helping her with her finances and taxes so I know where her accounts are and her expenses. My only concern is figuring out how to handle her timeshares (5 of them). She enjoyed travel and got sucked in numerous times. Luckily they are paid off and just have maintenance fees. We had hoped to have taken care of these before she passed, but her health declined extremely fast the last six weeks. I don't anticipate problems with our family - she didn't have a lot of possessions or money.

Just wondering what to expect from probate and if I should hire an attorney?

Thank you for any thoughts or advice.


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Old 09-03-2014, 08:00 PM   #2
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I was (well, technically, still am) executor for my father-in-law's estate. Luckily, probating his estate has been relatively simple, and in theory I probably could have handled it all myself. But I decided to hire a probate attorney to prepare and file the court papers. She and I had an initial meeting to discuss what needed to be done. Since it was going to be pretty straightforward and I'm compulsively organized she billed her subsequent work by the hour rather than charging the statutory fee set by the state of CA (which is based on a percentage of the probate assets). The amt she billed was less than the statutory fee, however, if we ran into any surprises that required more time on her part, the most she could have charged was that statutory fee.

I'm very glad I hired the probate attorney. I don't think the amount I might have saved the estate by doing it all myself would have been worth the worry and second-guessing.

I suggest you get a copy of Nolo Press' The Executor's Guide to get a better idea of what's involved. Especially regarding real estate. That might help you decide if you're willing to do it yourself. Since there are multiple heirs, and real estate (or in your case, timeshare contracts), I think you should consider an attorney.

This may be helpful as well: Probate Court, Executors & Handling an Estate - Nolo.com

Hope this helps. And, condolences for your loss.
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Old 09-03-2014, 08:00 PM   #3
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A competent attorney would be a good idea. Don't expect it to be over fast and get ready to hear terms that humans don't use.

My sympathies for your loss.
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Old 09-03-2014, 08:14 PM   #4
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My MIL died a year ago. The total assets of the estate were in the very low six figures, with the majority of it encumbered with a reverse mortgage. There was a will. We hired an attorney largely because DW was named the executor, but was unable to perform. A trip to the courthouse to assign BIL as the substitute could have been handled DIY, but none of us (BIL, SIL, DW and me) had either the time or the inclination to learn the applicable law and procedures.

$2000 was well worth it. In addition to the court appearance needed for the executor change being completed, that got BIL a creditors advertisement and the filing of some necessary papers, along with all the phone and e-mail help he needed for what turned out to be some more-complicated-than-expected paperwork associated with paying off the mortgage and selling the house.

My best tip has nothing to do with the attorney: as the executor, time spent providing information and frequent updates to the other heirs is vitally important.

Searching the threads will uncover several threads on being an executor, along with a few on timeshares. Redweek is one of the larger internet broker sites for timeshares.
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Old 09-03-2014, 08:42 PM   #5
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Googling "Time shares in probate" for the states involved, should bring up legal websites similar to this...
Estate Planning and Probate for Timeshares - Clear Counsel Law Group
In a cursory search, it looks as if the rules may be different by state, and according to the contracts.
Especially, not the responsibilities of the person who inherits, or administrates the time share.

Having dealt with some un-knowlegeable attorneys or those associated with banks I'd do my homework before hiring an attorney. Here's a discussion thread about disposing of timeshares. Maybe not too much help, but at least poses some questions to be asked.

What can we do with a timeshare in an estate? - Timeshare Users Group Forums

Questions like this:
Quote:
Hypothetical...

So IF the resort is unwilling to take a deed-back and the estate is unable to sell the TS...Lets assume in this hypothetical that its a poor TS with with a horrible fixed week that has a super high MF...The Estate has to continue to pay all future MF's until it is completely broke? What happens after the estate is completely broke, the homes, bank accounts have been wiped out all inheritance that would have went to the family...Who's Credit score is effected by the Foreclosure? the Executor of the Estate?
As a caveat... the time element for settling an estate can be very long... months, to several years. Thus the warning about selecting the correct lawyer.
Be aware of the term "Holdback"... which can cause even longer and more expensive delays.
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Old 09-03-2014, 09:04 PM   #6
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Thank you for the comments, feedback and links. Luckily I'll have time to research with my recent retirement.


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Old 09-04-2014, 10:14 AM   #7
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Dog,
Sorry to hear of your loss. My father passed away in April of this year and I have been his Personal Representative (aka Executor). I considered using an attorney and sat down with him for a free consultation. He offered to do everything (court related) for no more than $2,000 or an hourly fee if that were to be less. I really just wanted to retain him for questions. As such I have been doing it myself. Being ER I have the time. I actually enjoy doing taxes and the like so I don't mind the work.

As far as the timeshare goes, if you don't mind donating them, the American Kidney fund may be interested in accepting the deed. Donate a Timeshare to Charity - American Kidney Fund

-gauss
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Old 09-04-2014, 10:22 AM   #8
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After reading the Nolo Press books, I decided to handle my father's estate myself (California). Taken one step at a time, it was a very manageable process. The only thing I paid for was to have the estate income tax returns prepared.
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Old 09-04-2014, 10:42 AM   #9
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A competent attorney would be a good idea. Don't expect it to be over fast and get ready to hear terms that humans don't use.
Based on my experience as an executor twice (for my mother and my aunt):
- Engage the services of a lawyer, especially if you live in a different state than the one in which the will is being probated.
- That said, do as much of the work as you can yourself. For example, establishing a bank account for the estate, notifying financial institutions of the death so you can receive the proceeds and then consolidating them in the estate's account, notifying insurance companies, etc. - these are all simple and straightforward (albeit tedious) and there's no reason to pay the lawyer's or paralegal's billing rate to have them do it. Other things are more complex and require knowledge of the law which you might not have - pay the lawyer to do those things.
- Work with a lawyer that is willing to do things on an hourly basis (i.e., billing you for the work s/he actually does.) Some lawyers will want a percentage of the estate. If it's a relatively straightforward one, there's no reason to pay the same percentage of the estate that someone with a complex situation would have to.

Finally, remember that as an executor it's legal and legitimate to pay yourself for the time you spend working on the estate. That money is paid out of the estate itself. For my mother's estate I didn't do so since I was the sole heir. For my aunt's I did since there was more work involved and I had to communicate by letter with a number of other heirs. You do have to declare that income for income tax purposes.
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Old 09-04-2014, 11:18 AM   #10
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My mother passed away in 1992 and I did the entire probate myself. I spent about 40 hours doing research, reading in the law library, writing and filing court documents. For me it was worth it. However, probate laws have become more complex, so I can definitely understand hiring an attorney.
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Old 09-04-2014, 12:06 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by friar1610 View Post
Based on my experience as an executor twice (for my mother and my aunt):
- Engage the services of a lawyer, especially if you live in a different state than the one in which the will is being probated.
- That said, do as much of the work as you can yourself. For example, establishing a bank account for the estate, notifying financial institutions of the death so you can receive the proceeds and then consolidating them in the estate's account, notifying insurance companies, etc. - these are all simple and straightforward (albeit tedious) and there's no reason to pay the lawyer's or paralegal's billing rate to have them do it. Other things are more complex and require knowledge of the law which you might not have - pay the lawyer to do those things.
- Work with a lawyer that is willing to do things on an hourly basis (i.e., billing you for the work s/he actually does.) Some lawyers will want a percentage of the estate. If it's a relatively straightforward one, there's no reason to pay the same percentage of the estate that someone with a complex situation would have to.

Finally, remember that as an executor it's legal and legitimate to pay yourself for the time you spend working on the estate. That money is paid out of the estate itself. For my mother's estate I didn't do so since I was the sole heir. For my aunt's I did since there was more work involved and I had to communicate by letter with a number of other heirs. You do have to declare that income for income tax purposes.
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Old 09-04-2014, 12:22 PM   #12
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My Mum passed away 6 months ago. The solicitors are the executors of the estate so myself and my brothers haven't had to do very much at all after the initial meeting to go over the will, my Mum's documents and finances etc. We just dealt with the funeral and dividing the contents of the house and left everything else up to the solicitor. He gave us a quote of $4000 to do everything and I consider it money well spent because it took all the strain off us at a time when it's difficult to deal with stuff. The house is now sold and probate should be complete in about 3 months.
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Old 09-04-2014, 02:28 PM   #13
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Thanks all. I do have a question regarding the response from Nun. Are the contents of the home/apartment considered part of the estate to be legally divided among the heirs? Articles I've read have advised not to allow anyone to remove any items until after probate.


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Old 09-04-2014, 02:51 PM   #14
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Thanks all. I do have a question regarding the response from Nun. Are the contents of the home/apartment considered part of the estate to be legally divided among the heirs? Articles I've read have advised not to allow anyone to remove any items until after probate.


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I am not an attorney, but my understanding is that part of the probate process is to account for all assets, so it would be safer to leave things in place till after probate is completed, as you say.
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Old 09-04-2014, 03:40 PM   #15
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I am not an attorney, but my understanding is that part of the probate process is to account for all assets, so it would be safer to leave things in place till after probate is completed, as you say.
When my aunt died another nephew inherited her house. She had not thrown away anything for years, so there was a lot of junk around. The inheriting nephew hinted that he expected the house to be cleared out. I set him straight on that - I wasn't going to do it and I wasn't going to pay anyone else to do it as that would have had the effect of subsidizing the clean-out with cash assets that other heirs were inheriting. But I did ask him if I could remove several items that had been gifts from me to her over the years. He consented to that so there was no real issue. But technically, I suppose I should have waited until after he owned the house and gotten those items from him, not the unsettled estate.
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Old 09-04-2014, 03:51 PM   #16
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It's helpful to bequeath your personal effects in your will. That clears up any confusion and allows the house to be cleared before probate is obtained.
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Old 09-04-2014, 04:40 PM   #17
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Thanks all. I do have a question regarding the response from Nun. Are the contents of the home/apartment considered part of the estate to be legally divided among the heirs? Articles I've read have advised not to allow anyone to remove any items until after probate.


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For full disclosure my Mum lived in the UK.

It's true that things in the house are considered part of the estate and the solicitor told me and my brothers that doing valuations of furniture etc is more trouble than it's worth and that they seldom get involved in dispersing or valuing the household contents because their greatest value is often emotional. My mother had left instructions for some items to go to specific people so me and my brothers made sure that happened after the funeral. We then took some things and gave a lot to the local hospital charity where both my Mum and Dad died. We got the house cleared and made ready to be sold and then the solicitor got estimates from 3 estate agents and the house sold last month for just a bit over asking price.
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Old 09-04-2014, 05:34 PM   #18
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I am executor to my Dad's estate. I am out of state so I hired an estate attorney. Since Dad's estate was only about $1.6 million there was not a big concern for close scrutiny of contents of the house. In his state of residency I think the estate value has to exceed $5.0 million before estate taxes come into effect. We basically took any mementos or small pieces we wanted and the majority was sold at an estate auction. There was no concern on the part of the attorney about being "hands off" on the house contents due to the low value of the estate. The proceeds from the estate auction was reported to the attorney. The value of Dad's car was estimated as well. The value of the house for estate purposes will be based on the selling price when it sells.

All investments had assigned beneficiaries but need only be reported to establish the total estate value. The investments have already been distributed to the heirs. The attorney, while expensive is worth it since we are out of state. The attorney will take care of the closing of the house when sold and will also prepare the final income taxes next year.

While there are no timeshares to deal with I understand that if no heirs want to take them over, usually the timeshare company will take them back if yearly maintenance fees are paid current. It probably will require a proper letter from an attorney familiar with dealing with timeshares in an estate. I own two timeshares and I do have some concern about this as I do not want to leave a mess for my heirs to deal with.
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Old 09-04-2014, 06:28 PM   #19
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After reading the Nolo Press books, I decided to handle my father's estate myself (California). Taken one step at a time, it was a very manageable process. The only thing I paid for was to have the estate income tax returns prepared.
Exactly what I did for my mother's estate in Maryland. That said, hers was fairly simple with no real estate or even vehicles to deal with but those would have been easy enough.

With FIL, we let the attorney do it because we were burned out on dealing with his stuff after having to sell his house after his illness, health issues, nursing home care, etc. and no significant help from siblings.

Depending on the complexity of the estate it may not be all that complicated, mostly learning the vocabulary. At least that was my experience.
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Old 09-04-2014, 06:36 PM   #20
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Are the contents of the home/apartment considered part of the estate to be legally divided among the heirs? Articles I've read have advised not to allow anyone to remove any items until after probate.
That is essentially correct. In Maryland anyway, we had to have an assessor come in and do an assessment on all her property in her apartment - dining room set, glassware, dishes, furniture, all the routine "stuff" one has in one's residence. This was solely for reporting the value of the estate to the state and (if over $5 million) to the IRS. In Mom's case she didn't have enough to cross either the state or federal thresholds but even if the value of the estate is $1.98 it still has to be reported.

So distributions can happen after the assessment but before probate. In fact distributions are part of the probate process.
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