Breaking Down the Probate Process

Understand The 4 Steps of Probate

Probate is one of the most complicated elements of estate planning. Typically the result of someone dying without a will, probate is the legal process of reviewing and distributing the assets of the deceased. So whether you are the executor of an estate that ends up in probate, or a family member navigating the process of a loved one’s passing, here is what to know about the probate process.

Step 1: File a request for probate

A request for probate–also called a petition or application–will get the process in motion. You must file this request in the county the deceased person lived at the time of death. This detail is critical because it will either commence the will through the probate process and appoint the executor or appoint an administrator if there was no will.

Step 2: Communicate to heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors

Following the initiation of probate, the executor is responsible for notifying heirs, beneficiaries and creditors of the petition for probate, as well as providing proof of notice to the courts. Once notified, creditors will be given a specified window of time in which they’ll be able to make a claim on assets of the estate, according to state law. In addition, the executor is required to publish notice in local newspapers to make potential unknown creditors aware of the situation.

Step 3: Take inventory and pay the bills

The executor will then take inventory of the estate’s property and assets going through probate. The assets may consist of stocks and bonds, real property, business interests, and any other high-value assets that were not placed in a trust or other vehicle to avoid probate. An appraiser may have to be hired to appraise the items that aren’t linked to cash. The estate’s assets are then used to pay bills such as unpaid debts and taxes, along with funeral and burial expenses.

Step 4: Distribute inheritance to the heirs

The executor will petition the court a second time once all claims are paid and the waiting period for creditors to make a claim has expired. The remaining assets will then be distributed to the beneficiaries and heirs based on the decedent’s wishes documented in their will. If there was no will–the person died intestate–the assets will be disbursed due to intestate succession laws

It is the executor’s duty to make sure the estate is protected throughout the entire probate process, that all claims are paid, and the remaining assets are distributed to the wishes of the decedent. Although this article outlines four simple steps, probate can be time-consuming and complicated. For help with estate planning or navigating probate, contact Anselmo Lindberg & Associates.

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  1. What happens if there isn’t enough cash in an estate to pay all of the bills in probate? If the estate’s worth was mostly due to real estate would some of these assets have to be liquidated to pay creditors? If so, would heirs have an option of paying the debts to keep this from happening?

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