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Southern New England's Certified Elder Law Attorney

Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts

Probate - Decedent's Estate


When The Need For Probate Arises

When a loved one dies, there are many questions and challenges that arise. There are emotional issues as well as logistical ones that must be resolved at a time when a family is managing the grief and sadness of the personal loss.  In many cases, the legal and financial concerns that arise can feel overwhelming and leave the surviving family members uncertain of how to proceed.  When the need for probate arises, clients often become concerned that they are entering a time-consuming and expensive legal process or that those in charge of the process may not be protecting the best interests of the estate.

It is true that probate can be confusing and costly if not handled appropriately, but if the system is properly navigated by an experienced certified elder law attorney, the entire process can be efficient and cost-effective.  Many of our clients tell us that they were only able to come to terms with their personal loss after the legal and financial issues had been resolved.  Our team at Connelly Law Offices, Ltd., your Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts elder law attorney, has the experience and expertise to help those in need of probate navigate probate in the most efficient way possible.

What is Probate?

Probate is the court-supervised legal procedure of validating a will and collecting and distributing the decedents' assets according to their will after their passing. If they did not have a will, their assets will be divided according to state law.  The purpose of probate is to give the assets that once belonged to the deceased individual to heirs, beneficiaries, and/or organizations. When a loved one names an executor in their will, or the court chooses an administrator, they must follow a number of steps to properly administer the decedent's estate. Our team at Connelly Law, your Rhode Island elder law attorney, has the skill and expertise to help those needing an experienced team to navigate the necessary steps of the probate process.

Valuing the Estate

In probating the will, one of the first duties of the executor will be to determine the value of the decedent's estate. In order to do this, the executor will be required to inventory the estate and appraise each asset. This step is important as the executor must make sure that all of the property in the estate is accounted for. This step is also important as the executor must figure out the value of the property that is available in the estate in order to pay any creditors and figure out the distributions for the beneficiaries. If the value of the estate is not sufficient, then the beneficiaries may not receive the amount of property that the decedent wanted them to receive.


Paying Estate Creditors

Before distributing any assets to the beneficiaries, the executor must use estate assets to pay outstanding debts and claims against the estate. For example, taxes must be paid as well as funeral expenses, and expenses related to managing the estate. There may be claims against the estate that require the executor to seek a fiduciary or attorney in order to settle the dispute. These professionals will be paid from estate assets.

At any point during probate, the estate may be subject to claims by beneficiaries objecting to how the executor is managing the estate. For example, a beneficiary may believe that the executor is wasting or mishandling the assets of the estate. As a result, the estate may end up in estate litigation to resolve the allegations.

Distribution of Assets to the Beneficiaries

The final responsibility of the executor will be to distribute the assets of the estate to the beneficiaries. The will states the names of the beneficiaries and what asset each is to receive. If the decedent states that a beneficiary is to receive cash, the executor will simply write a check to the beneficiary. If the property is real estate or a vehicle, the executor must transfer the title to the beneficiary's name.


Passing Without a Will

If your loved one has died without a will, the state will essentially write a will for you. In other words, each state has rules that prescribe who is entitled to a decedent’s property in the absence of a will. These rules are called the rules of intestate succession. They are rigid and follow a specific formula. It is important to understand that the intestacy laws may not apply to all of your assets. Only those assets that would have passed by your will and through probate will be distributed according to the laws of intestate succession.  

The Process

Probate may take anywhere from a few months to a few years, depending on the estate, possible creditors, taxes, and beneficiaries. Small estates may qualify for a small probate proceeding, and depending on the court's discretion, a widow and children may receive an allowance during the probate process.​  If you need any assistance during a loved one's probate, you may contact Connelly Law Offices, Ltd., your Rhode Island elder law attorney. We have the experience and expertise to help clients through the probate process and estate administration and may represent a beneficiary should estate litigation be needed.

Rhode Island elder law attorney

"Our firm offers decades of experience in probate and decedent estates and will explain the estate administration process and estimate the fees and costs if you decide to retain us. We will also assist in transferring any assets that do not require probate.  At Connelly Law, we offer compassion and understanding at this most difficult time while acting in an efficient manner in navigating the probate process. Our goal is to help you to handle all the estate's business quickly and completely.  Call Connelly Law today, your Southern New England Elder Law Attorney."

                                                                                                                ---- RJ Connelly III

Rhode Island, Southeastern Massachusetts and Eastern Connecticut Elder Law Attorney

Contact Us!
Rhode Island Fiduciary

Call Connelly Law Today

Rhode Island Elder Law Attorney

Phone:  401-724-9400

Fax:  401-724-3046

Our office locations


47 Water St., Suite 101

Mystic, CT  06355


This website includes general information about legal issues, issues affecting seniors and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal issues and/or problems.

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372 Broadway

Pawtucket, RI  02860



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Oak Bluffs, MA  02557


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