The probate process does not have to be intimidating. Granted, as a first-time executor, you have questions about what you need to do. Among the first rules to remember are that probation focuses on settling the estate, is time-consuming and, sometimes, uncomfortable.
However, as the executor, you do not have to go it alone. An experienced attorney who understands estate administration usually is present with you in the courtroom, providing direction and insight.
Estate’s value, payment of debts and distribution of assets
What happens in probate? Here are some of the important tasks:
- The authentication of the will: A judge makes sure the will is valid. For example, the decedent and two witnesses must sign the document.
- Appointing an executor: This happens only if the decedent had not appointed an executor.
- The accounting of assets: A thorough inventory is necessary of all assets including personal property, real estate holdings, retirement accounts, bank accounts and insurance policies. While an executor typically completes this task, he or she will receive guidance from an attorney as well as a judge.
- Determination of the estate’s value: This represents a companion to the accounting of assets. Expect to spend a great amount of time on this task.
- The payment of outstanding taxes and debts: The payment of property taxes and income taxes must take place. In addition, creditors such as utilities, hospitals, retailers and credit card companies must receive any outstanding payments.
- Resolving disputes among heirs and beneficiaries: Disagreements may surface in probate. Someone may try to contest the will or contend that he or she deserves certain assets.
- The distribution of the decedent’s assets: With the completion of all other tasks, the executor must deliver the assets to heirs and beneficiaries. In some cases, the executor must aggressively search for the ones who are difficult to find.
Depending on the size of the estate or the complications involved, the probate process may take more than a year.
A necessary part of estate administration
When dealing with a will, the probate process often takes place. It is a necessary part of estate administration. Upon its completion, everyone involved – including the executor – may gain peace of mind and a sense of accomplishment.