Navigating the Probate Process
An inherited estate is considered both a blessing and a challenging time for most families. Losing a loved one is never easy, yet poor planning of an estate will provide its own challenges down the road.
What is Probate? The probate is the process by which estate affairs are legally dealt with or taken care of. Included among these is the process of proving the will to be genuine, accurately presented and valid in a court of law; settling all debts incurred by the departed, and disbursing all their assets according to the will.
Probate is also referred to as estate administration, and during probate, every single property, referred to as the ‘estate’ of the deceased, is passed on or transferred to the beneficiaries or heirs. More often than not, if there is a will, then the heirs (a general term here, referring to both male and female heirs) and beneficiaries will be named in the will. The probate process is always supervised by a probate court.
Probate– 4 Step Process
Step 1: Start The Process– Log and submit the will and give notification to any and everyone who is financially tied to the estate.
Step 2: Evaluate Assets– Assets need to be disbursed according to the will. Typically, the beneficiary receives assets from the decedent. The beneficiary (also known personal representative) may, in the probate process, be referred to as heir. But generally, those terms convey different meanings.
Step 3: Settle Debts/Taxes– Pay off all creditors, expenses, and claims. It is important at this point to note that all debts must be settled by their estate, including but not limited to legal fees, inherited houses and/or property, etc. (If you are not sure about paying taxes on inheritance, ask a professionally qualified estate planning attorney).
Step 4: Remaining Assets– After the beneficiary has settled all the debts, any remaining assets must be distributed according to the terms of the will.
Helpful Recommendations for Executors
- Seriously, unless you are an estate lawyer yourself, obtain the services of one. An estate lawyer would understand the nitty-gritty of what the probate process is, and doing things such as filing notices will be much easier if you have the assistance of an estate lawyer.
- You must file a petition with the court. The court petition must be filed in the county of the will of the decedent. The petition is to notify the court that the decedent has in fact passed on (you need a certificate for this) and to also notify the court that you are the Executor of the decedent’s estate (including the inherited house and/or property). It is best that you visit the country probate court in person to find out the specific requirements of that probate county and to know what to do when, and how.
- When you are recognized as the Executor of the Estate, get in touch with all the family members, creditors, beneficiaries and everyone named in the will, even if you are a family member and beneficiary yourself.
- It is important at this point to note that all debts of the must be settled by their estate, including but not limited to funeral costs, legal fees, inherited houses and/or property, etc.. So, at this point, do not go promising heirs and beneficiaries anything.
- Settle all debts, expenses, and claims– a decedent will not be absolved from any debts.
- Transfer all assets and properties according to the will.
- Close out the probate by filing another notice at the court.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for the purposes of providing information to families and people who may be going through the probate process. Even though the information here, to the best of the ability of the writer, is accurate, it only applies to States in the United States alone. And visitors from other countries might find that the probate process is something different entirely from the process outlined here. This article should therefore not be taken in lieu of financial, accounting or legal advice. In the case of personal problems or challenges in the probate system not addressed here, do feel free to consult a professional lawyer or accountant.