I recommend that every adult—over the age of eighteen—have a Last Will & Testament regardless of their current assets or debts. At a minimum, the document is a formal declaration of how a person wants his or her assets distributed upon death and who will carry out that distribution. If you die without a Last Will & Testament, the law makes presumptions (through intestacy statutes) about how your assets will be distributed and who will manage that process for you.
In the age of technology, when non-lawyers are constantly advertising on the TV, radio, and Internet that these documents can be drafted without a lawyer, I would caution you as to the consequences of doing a Last Will & Testament incorrectly or not following the proper procedures during execution—the document may not be recognized and it would be too late to fix it after you die. Our law firm offers these documents to our clients at a modest cost and the documents are prepared directly by Brian F. Funk, Esq. after an in-person consultation. After the initial meeting, we always send preliminary drafts of the document(s) to the client to read and review ahead of time; so that we can best address any concerns that you may have before you come back for a second visit to discuss the draft or formally execute it.
After execution of a Last Will & Testament or any other estate planning intrument, we strongly recommend that you store the document in a fireproof and waterproof safe or a safety deposit box. We recommend that you update this document any time that there is a major change in your assets, you relocate to another state, a marriage or death occurs, or a change in the tax law is passed. In certain situations, we may recommend that you consider using a trust as a vehicle of estate planning.
Our law firm handles probate for estates in all three counties of Delaware regardless of the size of the estate. If a decedent solely owned real estate in Delaware or has over $30,000.00 of solely held personal property, then the estate must be probated. We can assist in the process and assist in what is usually an emotionally difficult period for the personal representative(s). Delaware law requires that the person in possession of a decedent’s Last Will & Testament deliver and file it within ten days after death to the office of the Register of Wills in the county where the decedent resided.
The probate process in Delaware typically takes about one year from start to finish; however, it can be completed faster depending on how long ago the decedent passed away and depending on the nature of the assets. Delaware has an eight-month creditor claims period that requires that the assets of the estate be preserved to pay any claims that comes in during that period. After the estate is opened up, the personal representative(s) work with our office to complete the Inventory for the estate. Typically, we can file what is usually a First & Final Accounting within ten to twelve months after death depending on the debts and tax situation.