Probate is a legal process of verifying the validity and authenticity of a deceased’s will if there is one, and only distributing the assets if there isn’t. It’s an infamous process because it can last for several long years, take a lot of your time and cost loads of money – that’s why many people are ready for almost anything to avoid it. Each state has its own laws as to when probate is optional and when it’s absolutely necessary. Because, unfortunately, it’s not always possible to avoid it. But don’t be afraid – the fear of the unknown is the biggest of fears so here’s an overview of the probate process to make it more familiar. It may be long, but it doesn’t have to be problematic. And if you think you may need financial help, visit https://www.probateadvance.com/.
1. Authenticating the will
Most states require by law that a person who possesses the deceased’s will files it with the probate court as soon as it’s possible – normally the time varies from 30 days to three months. Then you are able to file an application to open probate as well. Some courts may require you to provide them with a death certificate too.
After that, the probate judge will confirm the validity of the will, possibly during the court hearing. All direct heirs (even if they aren’t mentioned in the will) and appointed beneficiaries need to be notified about the hearing. This is where any of these people can object to the will or the appointment of an executor.
The court will need witnesses to determine if the will is legit or not. It may be enough to provide an affidavit – a document that was supposed to be signed by the deceased and the witness at the moment of signing the will. Otherwise, there will be a need for more witnesses who will sign a sworn statement.
2. Appointing an executor (or a personal representative)
The judge appoints an executor (or a personal representative or an administrator) who will oversee the whole process and take care of the distribution of the assets. Normally the decedent would appoint his executor in the will as well. If there’s no will, it will be the closest relative, ideally a spouse or an adult child; however, they have the right to decline. Sometimes it is required for the executor to post a bond, a kind of insurance policy in case of making some significant mistake that may influence the estate or the beneficiaries.
3. Locating assets
This is the first responsibility of an executor – all of the decedent’s assets need to be found and secured. It’s not always easy, as people very often don’t know that they possess an asset or they simply don’t want to give it away, other times it turns out that the deceased hadn’t told anyone about a purchase. When it comes to real estate, the executor needs to make sure that all taxes or mortgage payments are being paid or that insurance is up to date so that the estate is not lost to some creditors during probate.
4. Calculating the date of death values
In some places, it’s the court that appoints appraisers to determine it, in others the executor can choose them. Then the report must be written on the assets and their value at the moment of decedent’s death.
5. Notifying creditors
It’s essential to identify all creditors of the decedent’s and notify them about his or her death – it may be done by publishing a notice in the local newspaper. Then they have a limited period of time to make a claim against the estate. It’s the executor who decides if the claim is valid, but the creditor can always go to court to have a probate judge verify it.
5. Paying debts and filing tax returns
After claims have been verified, the valid ones and other debts need to be paid. The executor uses the estate funds to pay them, as well as all final bills. Then they file final personal income tax returns for the year they passed away.
6. Distributing the assets
After all that, the executor files to the court for permission to distribute the assets to the beneficiaries named in the will or recognized by the probate court. In order to get permission, all paperwork needs to be submitted and the executor has to document each expense that’s been made during the process.
Probate can be long and it can get complicated, that’s why it’s essential to determine if you are capable of being an active part of the process or maybe it would be better to engage a professional.