In regard to overseeing a deceased estate, the process is generally called “probate”—a lot of people worry it is intimidating and complex, but it can in fact be as simple as 4 little steps.
What Entails the Probate Process?
Probate relates to the process in which certain of the deceased debts could be settled and the legal title to the deceased assets transferred to heirs and/or beneficiaries.
When the deceased created a will, and the deceased owned property that could be subject to probate, the probate process starts as the executor, that was designated by the deceased in their will, submits the will for probate inside a courthouse in the county in which the deceased resided, or was a property owner.
If there isn’t any will, an individual needs to request to the court to designate them as administrator of the deceased’s estate. Usually, this is the deceased’s spouse or an adult child of the deceased. Following being appointed by the court, the administrator becomes the legal delegate of the estate.
The 4 Fundamental Steps to Probate
Initiate the Probate Process:
Commence probate by filing a petition with the probate court. This petition serves to either reveal the will for probate and appoint an executor or, in the absence of a will, designate an estate administrator. It is essential to notify the deceased’s heirs and beneficiaries of the court hearing related to the petition. Any objections raised by heirs or beneficiaries are addressed during the court proceedings. Additionally, the notice of the hearing is published in local media to reach other interested parties, such as unknown creditors.
Creditor Notification and Asset Inventory:
Once appointed by the court, the estate administrator notifies all recognized estate creditors as per state law. Creditors are given a specific timeframe to make claims on estate assets. Simultaneously, a comprehensive account of the deceased’s probate property, encompassing physical assets, stocks, bonds, and business ventures, is compiled. In many states, court-appointed appraisers assess the value of these assets, and non-cash assets may require evaluation by an independent appraiser.
Settlement of Debts and Taxes:
The estate administrator is obligated to discern legitimate creditor claims, settle those claims, and pay final bills using estate funds. In certain circumstances, the estate administrator may sell assets to fulfill the deceased’s obligations. This process encompasses covering estate and funeral expenses, debts, and taxes.
Transfer of Property Title:
Following the waiting period for creditors to file claims and the settlement of authorized claims and bills, the estate administrator petitions the court for approval to transfer remaining assets to beneficiaries according to the deceased’s will or, if there is no will, in alignment with state intestate succession laws. If the will mandates the establishment of a trust for a minor, spouse, or incapacitated family member, funds are directed to the trustee. The petition may include a detailed record of how assets were managed throughout the probate process unless beneficiaries relinquish this requirement. Once the petition is granted, the estate administrator can execute property contracts, transfer stocks, finalize assets, and allocate property to the designated parties.
In conclusion, maintaining an up-to-date, well-documented will that reflects life changes, along with organized records of debts and assets, can significantly simplify the probate process. The smoother the trail left for your estate administrator, the easier the probate proceedings will be after your passing.
Renee Hykel Cuddy, E. (2020, September 30). The Probate Process: Four Simple Steps. Retrieved December 10, 2020, from https://www.legalzoom.com/articles/the-probate-process-four-simple-steps
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