Wyoming Probate Attorney
If you or someone you know has lost a loved one in Wyoming, you have likely either encountered or at least heard of “probate.” Probate is the process through which a court oversees the administration of a deceased person’s estate to ultimately distribute the assets to those entitled to them.
Probate is required in Wyoming where the decedent died intestate (without a will), or where their remaining assets not legally owing to another are worth over $200,000. If the decedent’s assets are worth less than $200,000 a simplified summary procedure can be followed.
Probate generally involves filing the will (if applicable) with the relevant Wyoming District Court, proving the will valid, identifying and providing a valuation of the decedent’s assets, the payment of any debts or fees owing from the deceased estate, and finally the distribution of remaining assets to those entitled to them.
Where the decedent had a will, one of the first steps to initiate probate is to file this with the District Court. Upon the passing of the deceased, whoever has custody of the will has 10 days to deliver the will to either the District Court where the decedent lived, or to the named executor (also known as a personal representative). If delivered to the Court, the named executor will be advised of this by the Court. The executor then has 30 days to bring a petition to probate the will.
Where there is no will, the estate will still need to be probated, a process initiated by relatives filing the specified forms with the relevant District Court.
Throughout probate, many issues may arise that can delay the distribution of the assets to beneficiaries and increase legal fees payable by the estate, decreasing its value. A few common issues include:
The Executor Declines their Appointment
An executor appointed either by will or by the Court has an election whether to accept that role. A person may wish to decline the appointment as it confers a number of responsibilities and duties upon them, particularly for larger estates. Although a person declining this role is not a major issue as the Court can simply appoint another person, it does cause delays in the process.
Disputes over the Wills Validity
A party with a direct financial interest in the decedent’s estate may choose to contest the will by filing a written objection with the Court. A will can be challenged on a number of grounds, including by alleging:
- The decedent did not have the proper mental capacity;
- The decedent was under undue influence from another party;
- The will was not properly executed; or
- A newer will exists that supersedes the one with the Court.
If this challenge is successful, it invalidates the will, and the decedent’s estate is treated as if the decedent died intestate.
The Executor Breaches Their Fiduciary Duty
An executor has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries. They must take care not to diminish the value of the estate while performing their duties, which include taking control of the assets, getting these valued, and paying off creditors and debts. Where the executor breaches their fiduciary duty by acting in a way that unreasonably diminishes the estate, a beneficiary may bring litigation against the executor.
Probate can be a daunting process, particularly whilst you are dealing with grief. Steven Titus & Associates, P.C, can take care of your legal affairs and support you through this difficult time. We can help determine whether probate is necessary, guide an executor to understand their fiduciary duties and obligations, challenge the validity of a will or the value of assets, or bring litigation for breach of fiduciary duty.
We also assist with estate planning, if you are looking to draft or update your will. The lengthy and costly process of probate can be avoided through living trusts, holding property jointly with a right of survivorship, and through pay-on-death-designations and life insurance policies.
Call us today at (307) 257-7800 so we can help you with any of your estate or probate-related needs.
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