While you may have vaguely heard of the term “probate”, you may very well have no idea what it actually refers to. Yes, it does involve distributing the property of a deceased individual to the heirs, but there is actually a lot more going on. In fact, probate can be incredibly complex and time consuming. While careful and comprehensive estate planning can prevent this to a large extent, probate is still much more than giving property to heirs after a loved one has passed away.
What Happens During Probate?
The following will describe how the probate process will unfold after someone has died with a will in place. The process would look different if a person died without a will.
In general terms, probate refers to the official, court-supervised settling of an estate. A probate judge will determine whether there is a valid will in place. A person, referred to as the executor or personal representative, will be appointed by the will or, if the will does not specify, by the court. The executor of the estate will be in charge of settling the estate and will be supervised by the probate court.
The executor plays a vital role in the probate process and has extensive responsibilities that include:
- Gathering and valuing the assets of the estate
- Notifying all potential creditors of the estate
- Paying all valid debts of the estate
- Paying taxes
- Selling real estate and other assets of the estate
- Distributing remaining assets to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the will
The order and manner in which the above responsibilities are carried out is incredibly important. More specifically, the probate process will look like this:
- The will of the deceased individual, referred to as the “decedent,” must be filed with the probate court within 30 days of his or her death. It must be filed in the probate court in the county where the decedent lived.
- The Petition for Probate must be filed with the probate court which requests the appointment of an executor. Notice to all heirs must be sent out.
- “Letters Testamentary” will be court-issued to the executor granting them legal authority to carry out the above referenced duties.
- Notice of the probate proceedings must be published in a newspaper where the decedent lived in order to give notice to creditors. Creditors will have six months from the date of publication to file a claim against the estate.
- The executor must file an inventory of the estate’s assets and the value of the assets with the court.
- All valid debts and applicable taxes must be paid.
- Assets remaining after the payment of debts and taxes will be distributed to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the decedent’s will.
Sound Legal Counsel to Guide You Throughout the Probate Process
Probate can be a complicated time. Add this to the fact that you have to go through the probate process after the passing of a loved one and it can be a lot to handle on your own. At Palumbo Law, our