Probate is the process that appoints a personal representative (executor) to manage the distribution of your assets when you die.
Although you’ve likely heard complaints about the length and cost of the probate process, Maine has taken steps to simplify this procedure and minimize these inconveniences. The state’s informal system allows for a will and appointment of a personal representative, usually within one to two weeks of application. After the appointment, the estate is completely in the hands of the personal representative without the interference of the court as long as beneficiaries are in agreement about the settlement of the estate.
Before 1981, many attorneys charged a percentage of the estate’s gross value. This is no longer permitted under Maine’s probate code, so in most cases, lawyers bill estate work on an hourly basis like they do with other types of legal matters. In addition, the personal representative can use any attorney for the probate process and does not need to use the lawyer who prepared the decedent’s will.
When you die, assets held jointly with your spouse or another individual will automatically pass to that person. This is also true of assets that name a beneficiary, i.e., Life Insurance, IRAs, Payable-on-Death (POD) bank accounts, and Transfer-on-Death (TOD) stock accounts. Your assets do not need to go through probate unless you die in a common accident with your beneficiary. If assets are owned by an individual without a surviving beneficiary, then a personal representative must be appointed to take charge of these assets.
Being a personal representative or executor can sometimes feel like an overwhelming obligation. At Ballou & Bedell we help personal representatives navigate the Maine probate process to ensure a speedy and smooth estate administration. We also work with clients to discuss revocable living trusts that allow you to avoid probate. Our attorneys are well-versed in this important practice area. Fill out our online form or call us at (207) 363-5300 to get in touch today.