If you are someone that is involved in settling another’s else’s estate, then one of the first questions you may be asking yourself is what exactly is probate? Well, the easiest way to summarize is that it’s the legal process that happens after a person dies, that determines how their assets will be distributed. In most scenarios, the executor named in the estate plan will take on the role of handling probate.
But if there is no will, then the state probate court will determine the rules of inheritance. The timeline for how soon probate concludes will vary depending on the state, size of the estate, and what estate plan documents were written by the deceased, if there are any.
File Probate Petition
You must file a probate request in the country where the person was living at the time of their death. On the paperwork, you will be asked to acknowledge your role as executor to represent the estate. Along with the petition, you must file a valid will if one exists, in addition to the death certificate.
The court will then schedule a hearing to approve you as executor, unless there are objections from other parties. If you are approved, then the court opens the probate case and you will act on behalf of the deceased’s estate.
Give Notice To Creditors
You must mail a notice to all creditors that the estate is in probate. You will need to notify heirs and beneficiaries as well, as necessitated by the court. Depending on the state, you may have to publish this notice in the local newspaper too.
Perform Asset Inventory
Appraising, collecting, and inventorying all assets that are part of the probate process and presenting them to court is part of the role of being an executor. You will have to find retirement accounts, bank accounts, real estate contracts, stocks and bonds, and personal effects like collections, jewelry, and valuable art.
Handle Debts and Bills
As executor, you have to collect money that is owed to the deceased’s estate, such as paychecks, along with reviewing outstanding debts and bills, then deciding if they should be paid and how. To do this successfully, you may have to go through emails, bank account records, and checkbooks to gather the information you need to make reasonable choices about which debts, bills, and owed amounts are valid.
Distribute Assets Remaining
Once all expenses, debts, and claims are paid or received, the remaining amounts and property will be distributed to the rightful heirs. Throughout the process of handling the estate, an executor may have to send financial receipts to beneficiaries as needed so that they are informed about how the assets are being handled before it’s transferred to them.
Close the Estate
As a Bergen County, NJ probate lawyer from Kaplan Law Practice, LLC explains, after everything has been transferred to beneficiaries, you will send a record sheet and receipts of your transactions to the court, then ask for the estate to be closed, effectively releasing you from your role as executor.