If a person has died and left a will, that will must go through probate, a court-supervised process that validates a last will and testament. The laws involved in probating an estate are generally the same from state to state. If you’ve never seen an estate go through the probate process, you might not know what to expect. Estate planning lawyers explain what occurs during probate.
The first step in the probate process is confirming that the will the deceased left is valid. This generally involves a court hearing and all the beneficiaries will be given notice of this hearing. To prove that the will is real, there must be signatures from the decedent and witnesses on the affidavit the same time the will is signed and witnessed.
The judge has to name the executor of the will, who will oversee the probate process and settle the estate. The deceased will generally include the person they want to serve as the executor in the will. However, if there is no executor named in the will, the judge will appoint the next of kin to serve as the executor.
Find the Deceased’s Assets
The first order of business for an executor is to locate all of the deceased’s assets. Not all assets may be presented in the will, so it may take a little bit of digging. The executor may have to look through tax returns, insurance policies and other documents.
Figure Out the Date of Death Values
The court will require that the executor submit a report that includes all the items the deceased owned and the value of each asset. The executor can do this through account statements and appraisals.
A person’s creditors must be notified after they die. It’s the executor’s job to put the notice of death in a local newspaper to notify creditors they don’t know about. Creditors usually only have so much time to make claims against the estate after receiving the notice.
Pay the Deceased’s Debts
If the deceased has any debts, the executor must pay those off before distributing any assets to beneficiaries.
File Tax Returns
The next step is filing the decedent’s tax returns for the year in which they died. These taxes will be paid from the estate.
Once debts and taxes are all paid for, the executor can distribute the remaining assets to the designated beneficiaries. If some of the beneficiaries in the will are minors, the executor may have to set up a trust because minors can’t owe property.
If you have additional questions about the probate process, consult with a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer. They know what a confusing process probate can be and want to help simplify it. Call us today to schedule a consultation.