The 4 Steps of Probate
When someone passes away, their estate will go into a process call probate where their debts will be settled and the legal title of their property will be transferred to heirs and beneficiaries. The best way to make this process easier is to have a living will developed because, if a will was created, it will have named an executor to ensure the assets get distributed as per the decedent’s wish. If there was not a will, the court will name an administrator. Here is the four-step process of probate that will take place.
Step 1: Filing of Petition and Notice to Heirs and Beneficiaries
The first step of the process is where a petition is filed with the probate court to either appoint an executor or administrator of the estate, depending on whether or not there is a will to be admitted. The executor or administrator will serve as the decedent’s personal representative. In most cases, all heirs and beneficiaries will be notified of the petition’s court hearing. Any heirs or beneficiaries that wish to object to the petition will be able to do so during a court hearing. There will also often be a notice published in a local newspaper which will notify others that are necessary for process, such as unknown creditors of the decedent, of the beginning of the process.
Step 2: All Creditors of the Estate Must Be Notified by Personal Representative and Inventory of Estate Property Taken
All creditors of the estate will at this point be given written notice of the proceeding by the personal representative. If any of the creditors wish to make a claim on any of the decedent’s assets, they will have a limited period of time to do so. The amount of time they have to do so varies by state. This step also includes an inventory being taken of all of the probate property which includes any real property, stocks, bonds, and business interests. While this step varies depending on the state, some will have a court-appointed appraiser value the assets. The estate may also have an independent appraiser value the non-cash assets.
Step 3: Pay All Estate and Funeral Expenses, Debts, and Taxes
Once the executor or administrator has been appointed and the creditors have gathered, the personal representative will have to decide which of the creditors are legitimate, paying those and any other bills that must be paid out of the estate. This will put to rest any unsolved debts that were owed by the decedent. In some circumstances, the personal representative may be able to sell assets of the estate to satisfy any obligations of the decedent.
Step 4: The Transfer of Legal Title of Property to Beneficiaries
The final step of the probate process involves the transfer of the legal title of any property to a beneficiary according to either a will or, if a will had not been created by the decedent, under the laws of intestacy. At this point, the personal representative will have to petition the court to be given the authority to transfer any of the remaining assets to the beneficiaries as stated by the last will and testament or, if there was no will created, according to the state’s intestate succession laws. This will be done after the previous steps are done in which the waiting period is served and all approved claims and bills are paid. If the will stated that a trust be set up for a minor, a spouse, or anyone that is incapacitated, the money will be transferred at that point.
Before passing the assets of your estate on to your heirs, your estate will go through the four-step process of probate. This can be a complex and time-consuming process, but if you create a living will, the process can be made much simpler. During this process, all of your debts will be paid to creditors and all of your outstanding bills will be paid, including your funeral expenses. These will be paid out of your estate. The process will also include your nominated executor distributing your estate as per your wishes. If you need to create a will or need assistance going through probate, call on the experts at Yardley Law to help.