Will or no will...
Even with a valid will in place, the court can still be involved to see that that the debts of your loved one are paid and assets are distributed according to their will. With a will in place, this process will go much smoother than trying to figure where all of the assets and valuables go. A will must be filed with the county court in New Mexico where the person resided before their death. Even if there is no estate or the assets don’t need to go through probate, the will must be recorded. The court may need to validate the will or settle disputes contesting the will. Without a valid will, you will still need to go through probate.
So what is probate?
Probate is a public process, so keep in mind that without a valid will in place, any "interested party" can see what you owned, whom you owed, who will receive your assets, and when they will receive them. The process "invites" disgruntled heirs to contest your will and can expose your family to unscrupulous people and people that are just plain nosy. You've often heard that family members you've never even met might come out of the woodwork to try and claim parts of your loved one's estate. The best way to avoid this is to encourage all family members to create a valid, clear-cut will that will at the very least, cut down on some confusion and drama when probate happens.
What's the timeline?
New Mexico's probate procedures are generally short-term compared to other states in the nation. In New Mexico, the probate period can range from 6-12 months in time. In other states, probate can last an average of 1 to 2 years! Of course, this is all dependent on a will and if others are coming forward to contest or lay claim to any estates or assets. When this happens the probate period can be extended until that is resolved.
What is the cost?
There is no statutory fee in New Mexico for probate which means that the fees are based on the time involved in completing the probate. Most uncontested probates in which the assets of the estate are located entirely in New Mexico can be handled by an attorney for fees ranging between $3,000 to $5,000 with the actual cost based on the hourly charges necessary to complete the probate. By way of comparison, we are advised that the average attorney fees for probate in California are often in the $15,000 to 30,000 range or higher.
Dealing with probate can be a confusing and daunting process. Most people are also grieving when having to deal with this process which adds more layers to their ability to execute the process correctly and promptly. If you are experiencing this let us help you navigate this tough time just schedule an appointment with us!