Navigating Probate is no easy task. Do not go it alone. If you are Attorney, Personal Representative, or an Executor or Executrix we can help. Our Probate team are Nationally Certified Probate Real Estate Specialists.
We make this very challenging task a bit easier for you. As experienced Real Estate Professionals we will be sure to keep you well informed. We assist with some of the difficult conversations you may have with family members and additional heirs. In addition, if you have not secured the services of an Expert Probate Attorney we will assist you in selecting one.
You will be assisted and guided every step of the way. Handling Probate is never easy but we will make it a little less stressful and a lot less lonely.
WHAT IS PROBATE?
Probate is the process of proving a will and executing it according to the decedent’s wishes. A decedent is a person who has passed away with assets to pass to family members.
Here is a breakdown of what the probate process entails:
- Will of the decedent is found and verified to be legal - Most states have specific laws requiring anyone in possession of a will to file it as soon as possible. During the same time as the filing, an application or petition to open probate of the estate.
- An executor or personal representative is appointed - In most cases, a personal representative will be named in the will to carry out the execution of the will on behalf of the decedent. This person is sometimes referred to as the executor or administrator of the will. If there is no one named in the will as personal representative, the court will appoint one.
- Probate bonds are posted - This is a type of court bond that ensures an appointed representative will appropriately fulfill their duties by complying with state laws, and the terms of the will, trust or court order.
If you are appointed as the personal representative, your county court may require the bond to guarantee that all the estate debts will be satisfied and that the remaining assets will be properly distributed to the appropriate heirs.
- Receive Letters of Administration from the court - An estate checking or brokerage account is set up by either an attorney of the personal representative. An Employer Identification Number (EIN) may need to be obtained from the Internal Revenue Service. A copy of the Death Certificate, the EIN, and a certified copy of the Letters of Administration are taken to a bank to open an Estate account.
- Assets are located and protected - Once the personal representative of the decedent is appointed, the first and often most difficult task is to take stock of all the decedent’s assets in order to protect them.
This process usually requires combing through insurance policies, tax returns, and other documentation left behind. Sometimes an asset may not be named in the will, so this step can take a good amount of detective work.
- Assets are appraised - Once all the assets have been accounted for, many states require the personal representative to submit a written report listing everything along with its appraised value, noting how the value was calculated. The inventory of assets is filed with the Probate Court and depending on your state’s statute, a copy may be required for the Department of Revenue.
- Publish notice to creditors - The decedent’s creditors must be identified and notified publicly of the death. Most states still require this notice to be published in a local newspaper to alert creditors that may be unknown.
Creditors are given a limited time period after receiving the notice to make their claims against the estate. This time period can vary from state to state.
- The decedent’s debts are paid off - The personal representative is also responsible for liquidating and closing the accounts owned in the decedent’s name alone. All of the proceeds should be placed in the Estate account.
When the creditor period expires, documents proving that those with valid claims were paid will be filed with the Probate Court.
- Tax returns are prepared and filed -
The personal representative must also file the decedent’s last personal income tax returns for the year in which they died. It will be determined at that time whether the estate is subject to any estate taxes, and if applicable, those tax returns are filed as well. A Certified Public Accountant may be required to help navigate the complexities. Any taxes due will be paid from the Estate account.
- The remaining assets are distributed according to the will - After all these steps have been done, the remaining assets are distributed to beneficiaries. Personal property, vehicles, heirlooms, and specific gifts under the will are usually the first to be distributed.
Generally, a Proposed Plan of Distribution is created as dictated by the decedent’s will that beneficiaries will agree on before assets are distributed.