The challenges and opportunities of careers have moved many of us away from home. Many of us continue to enjoy going back for a dose of that unconditional parental love and to hang with old friends.  However over time, we become aliens in our home towns unable to relate to an environment that does not seem to keep up with time. Furthermore, as many of us have learned, there are challenges associated with attending to ageing parents from a distance.

Let’s now reflect upon probate. With my Mom’s death a few years back I also received my Probate Purple Heart. Yes, I was wounded in the line of duty before I even identified the enemy. Just in, do everything possible to also avoid probate! If you hire an attorney to probate a small estate the cost is relatively steep. If you try to do administer probate from a distance, it’s like reliving your freshman year; awkward, uncomfortable, exposing and expensive. 

The “Clerk of the Court”, is delegated the responsibility of administering probate. They even appear to use the same purposely misleading guardianship asset inventory forms. You are not supposed to figure out the forms, you are supposed to just hire an attorney.  The politically minded Clerk, delegates the probate administration responsibility to career “Assistant Clerks” who have their independent political fiefdoms that the Clerk depends upon for re-election. These Assistant Clerks have already made up their minds that you as the executor are planning to steal from your parent’s estate.  Don’t be offended; it’s just the way it works. I believe the goal of the probate Clerks is to create enough problems to maintain job security. No doubt their mission is not to make probate a user friendly environment.   

In conclusion, make sure your parents have current wills. If you think probate is a bummer, try intestate which is the administering of an estate without a will. Do everything you can to insulate your parent’s estate from probate. Ask your attorney for advice but be aware that the attorney makes a living from probate so they are inclined to minimize the challenges that probate may present. Get humble and recognize “home court rules” and be prepared to hold your tongue and bow down to the Assistant Clerk. Don’t get uppity thinking that you have rights at the local court house.  If you are not part of the voting electorate just accept that you are perceived as a nuisance. Hire an attorney who knows the local probate process and can be counted upon to keep you out of the Assistant Clerk’s dog house. Finally, remember attorneys get paid to solve problems and to this end are capable at creating problems so monitor what they are doing.

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