The legal system can be overwhelming to navigate while grieving the loss of a loved one. Having a basic understanding of the probate process can make the journey less stressful. In this article, we will provide a general overview of probating a testate estate (where there is a Will):
1. Locate the Will:
After the deceased passes away, locate the deceased’s original Last Will & Testament, which states the deceased’s wishes regarding the distribution of assets.
2. Seek Legal Assistance:
The probate process can be complex, and laws vary by state. Thus, much like fingerprints, every probate case is different. A probate attorney can guide you through the legal process, ensure all legal requirements are met, and address any disputes or issues that arise.
3. File a Petition:
Your probate attorney will prepare and submit a petition to probate the will.
4. Attend Court:
At the hearing, your probate attorney will guide you through testimony. Then, the Court usually signs an order admitting the will to probate and appointing an executor to be in charge of the probate administration.
5. Notify Beneficiaries and Creditors:
Generally, an executor must give notice of the probate case so that beneficiaries and potential creditors have an opportunity to submit claims or contest the will if they believe they have grounds to do so.
6. Inventory the Estate:
Then, an executor must make a comprehensive list of the deceased’s assets, including real estate, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, personal property, and business interests. Some assets might require a professional appraisal to determine their value.
7. Address Debts and Taxes:
Don’t forget about paying valid debts, claims, and taxes from the deceased’s estate. Examples of common debts are funeral expenses, medical bills, credit card debt, and any outstanding taxes.
8. Distribute Assets:
After debts are resolved, the remaining assets can be distributed as the will states. If there isn’t a will, assets are distributed according to state laws of intestacy. This is a different type of probate. To learn more about intestacy, see our blog.
9. Close the Estate:
The executor and their attorney should decide whether closing the estate is necessary depending on the facts of the case.
Final Thoughts for Executors:
- Get Legal Guidance: A systematic approach and the support of a probate attorney can ease the journey through the probate process. It’s essential to respect the wishes of the deceased, act in the best interest of all beneficiaries, and ensure compliance with all legal requirements.
- Keep Records: Throughout the probate process, you must maintain clear records of all transactions, communications, and decisions. This can help resolve any disputes and is essential for accounting purposes.
- Be Patient: Probate can be a lengthy process, taking several months to over a year. The duration depends on the complexity of the estate, challenges or disputes, and specific probate laws in the jurisdiction.
To set an appointment for guidance about the probating a will, contact us at (281) 759-3213.
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