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that probate is very expensive
(and can easily take more than a yr

It depends on the state and how contested. Most of the time for probate was the waiting period for any claims to be submitted. Actually, I could have skipped publishing and waiting the official time, but I felt better knowing there was a legal time limit for claims. As expected, I had paid all of the bills and no claims were submitted. Probate was complete in 5 months.

Because it was out of state, I paid a lawyer to handle probate. It is possible to do probate without a lawyer, but I wasn't in any state of mind to handle it and being out of state it would have been a challenge.

Managing distribution of the estate is separate from probate. Selling or transferring assets require specific paperwork. It can take time to obtain the correct forms that require Notary or Medallion signature guarantee. If it is out of state, originals have to be sent. One account is proving to be a challenge.
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