Knowing everything involved during the probate helps in easing the fears about the same. First things first, the process is not as complicated as people consider it to be. It generally entails settling the debts of the decedent and transferring the legal title of his or her property to beneficiaries.
Suppose the decedent has left a will and has property subject to the process. The procedure will begin as soon as the estate executor presents the deceased’s will in the courtroom. The executor is the person whom the deceased has appointed in his or her last will. This is for carrying out every matter related to their will on their behalf.
In the absence of a will, someone requests the court to nominate him or her as the estate administrator. Often, this person will be the adult child or the spouse of the deceased. Once nominated by the court of law, the administrator or the executor starts serving as the legal representative of the decedent’s estate.
Collecting and Preparing Documents for the Probate Procedure
There are a number of documents crucial for making the application. These include:
- Original will
- Original Death Certificate
- Codicil or a separate document created by the decedent marking changes in the will.
It is necessary for you to make some extra duplicates of these documents for the record. It is also important to get certified copies of all the original documents. The following forms are also crucial for applying for the process:
- Summons for Probate
- Grant of Probate
- Affidavit of Executor
Inventory of Property for Probate
The estate executor nominated in the will needs to arrange for all these documents and forms to handle the process. In case there is no will left behind by the decedent, it is the state court that should decide on the rules of the estate inheritance.
The entire process and its timeline will greatly differ based on the state where it is taking place. But, generally, the process requires going through the following steps once the documents have been collected.
Filing Petition to Start with the Probate Process
Once all the documents are in place, you will have to file a petition for the process in the state where the decedent resided at the time of his or her death. Here, it is necessary that the paperwork officially acknowledges you to serve as the legal estate executor.
Additionally, you will have to file in a valid estate plan or will, if there’s one along with the death certificate. Once all these steps are completed, the court schedules a hearing for approving the executor and also for haring the objections of the concerned parties.
The case will open as soon as you are approved as the estate executor by the court of law. Now, you will have the legal authority to serve on behalf of the decedent’s estate.
Giving Notice to the Beneficiaries and the Heirs
Next, you will have to inform the heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors about the estate being in probate by sending them a mail. You can even publish the same notice in a newspaper.
What after all the concerned parties have been informed? It is time to collect, inventory, and duly appraise all the assets subject to the process and present the same in the court of law. This requires collecting all documents like bank accounts, bonds, stocks, retirement accounts, real estate, and even personal effects like precious art collections.
Handling Debts and Bills
As an executor, you will have to collect cash owed to the decedent’s estate, like outstanding rents and paychecks. You will also have to review all outstanding debts and bills to decide whether they must be settled.
Make sure to go through all the documents because this will help you understand how the bills should be paid if at all they need to be paid. This requires going through bank accounts, emails, and checkbooks for gathering information.
The executor must also make sure that the assets of the estate can cover up all the debts. In case the assets are not sufficient for paying off the debts, the state will be prioritizing the claims of the creditors.
The executor should pay off all the applicable taxes and even file the final income tax return on the deceased’s estate. It works to come up with an estate account for paying off the final expenses and bills of the deceased’s estate.
It is not easy to collect all the documents needed for the probate procedure. As an executor, you will have to take up several responsibilities. So, it is always a good idea to consider the services of an attorney here.