When it is time to administer a person’s estate, it is referred to as the probate process. There are many people who fear that this process is not only complicated, but also daunting. However, in reality, it is as simple as just four steps.
All About the Probate Process
The probate process occurs when a person’s debts are settled and the legal title to the property of a deceased person is distributed and transferred to their beneficiaries and heirs. If the person who passed, referred to as the decedent, had a will and they had property that was subject to probate, then the probate process will start when the executor, who is named in the person’s will, presents the will for the probate process in a courthouse.
If the individual did not have a will, then someone has to request for the court to appoint them as the administrator of the estate. The four steps of the probate process can be found here.
Step 1 in the Probate Process: File the Petition and Give Notice
The probate process starts when the petition is filed with the court to either:
- Admit the will to probate and then appoint an executor
- With no will, appoint an estate administrator
Step 2 in the Probate Process: Notification Given to Creditors and Estate Inventory
It is then the job of the personal representative to give written notice to each of the estate creditors. Creditors who want to make a claim on the assets has to do so within a certain period of time.
Additionally, an inventory of all the decedent’s property has to be taken. In some cases, an appraiser appointed by the court will value the assets.
Step 3 in the Probate Process: Payments from the Estate
The personal representative of the estate has to determine which of the creditor’s claims are legitimate and pay those, as well as any other final bills. In some cases, the personal representative will be permitted to sell additional assets from the estate to satisfy the obligations of the decedent.
Step 4 in the Probate Process: Transfer of Legal Title
After a certain waiting period when creditors can make claims against the estate, and the bills and claims are paid, the personal representative will petition the court to transfer all remaining assets to the beneficiaries as directed by the decedents will. If there is not a will, then a trust has to be created to benefit the person’s spouse, a minor of them or an incapacitated family member. The money will then be transferred to the trustee.
The bottom line is that a properly drafted will, which is updated regularly to account for any and all life changes, will ensure that a person’s property is sent to heirs and beneficiaries.