If you’ve lost a loved one, it’s important to know how probate and estate administration work so that you can protect your assets and interests.
Probate is the court process of settling an estate and distributing all property to beneficiaries. Estate administration, on the other hand, is the administrative process by which an executor or administrator oversees estate matters.
What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process that a deceased person’s estate goes through to pay debts and distribute assets. It can be confusing and challenging, especially if you don’t have a will or trust to guide you.
A will can eliminate probate by ensuring that your property is distributed according to your wishes. It can also help you avoid the expense, time and hassle that comes with the probate process.
Some properties pass outside of probate by contract, such as an insurance policy or a bank account that names a beneficiary. Other property, like jointly owned property with right of survivorship, is held in a trust and passes to the beneficiaries without the need for court action.
To get started on the probate and estate administration process, you’ll need to find out what your loved one owned. Then create an inventory and file it with the court.
Who is in Probate?
When a person passes away, their assets, property and personal possessions must be examined and transferred. This is commonly done by a probate court.
Typically, if the deceased had a valid will (testate), they will name someone in their will as executor. If they did not, the probate court will appoint an estate administrator.
The estate administrator must inventory the decedent’s assets, notify creditors and beneficiaries, pay outstanding bills, sell any unneeded assets if necessary to pay what’s owed, pay taxes, and distribute any remaining estate property to the beneficiaries according to the will.
Intestacy laws in most states divide the deceased’s assets among their heirs-at-law, which includes surviving spouses, children, grandchildren, parents, and siblings. Generally, the closest living relatives have the first right to inherit.
What Happens in Probate?
After someone passes away, their estate needs to be handled. This includes gathering and paying off debts, distributing any remaining assets to their heirs or beneficiaries, and paying estate taxes.
The process of probate and estate administration can be difficult and time-consuming for the family, friends, and loved ones of the deceased. But it’s also important to understand how it works and the steps that must be taken to complete it.
First, the person who is named executor of the estate (or administrator if there’s no will) must locate and take possession of all of the deceased person’s property. This can involve a fair amount of sleuthing, especially if the deceased person left behind any hidden assets.
What Can I Do in Probate?
The death of a loved one can be a devastating and emotional experience. It can also be frustrating when it comes to navigating legal and financial steps that survivors must take in order to get their loved one’s estate properly sorted out.
The person designated as an executor in the will generally handles this process, while it is sometimes necessary to have a lawyer involved. They will be in charge of everything from completing inventory forms to disbursing assets and paying bills to creditors.
They will also be in charge of filing tax returns and distributing property to beneficiaries or heirs. They may also be in charge of handling other legal issues that could arise during probate and/or estate administration, such as conflicts among beneficiaries or other interested parties.
They must make sure all necessary people are given notice of the proceedings, which can vary depending on the circumstances but usually includes heirs at law. These heirs, whom would inherit even in the absence of a will, are required to be served with notice of the probate proceeding.