The process of carrying out a decedent’s final wishes can be complicated for those left behind. While the plan is laid out in a well and thought-out manner, it may not be the easiest to follow for a few reasons.
Emotions run high in the aftermath of a loved one’s death, even when they leave an estate plan. One thing you may have to contend with is the probate process. This is a court-based proceeding that ensures a deceased person’s property and debt are handled appropriately. Even when someone dies with a will, some jurisdictions force the will through probate. Take a look at what occurs during this process.
The first step in probate is filing a petition with the proper court. The petition should include the decedent’s name, the personal representative who is administering the will, a copy of the will and a copy of the death certificate. These items are required to get the approval of a judge before the process can fully begin.
Administering the Will
Once the judge opens probate, the personal representative can start tending to the affairs listed in the will. A crucial step is getting a proper accounting of the deceased’s assets and debts. The personal representative must tally up how much the estate is worth in property and assets, and do the same with the obligations. Then, a notice needs to be sent to anyone named in the will as an heir, plus all of the creditors stating that the probate process has begun. The personal representative may also have to give an accounting to the court.
Distribution of Assets and Payment of Debts
Debtors have a certain amount of time to respond to the notice. When they do, the personal representative must be ready to pay them. Sometimes, there is not enough cash to pay off collectors, so the court allows the representative to sell off other assets like property and stocks to pay the debts. Once debts are paid, the personal representative distributes the remaining proceeds to the heirs as outlined in the will. If there is not enough money left to do this, the representative must provide proof to the heirs of all accounting activity.
When the estate is devoid of money and assets, the personal representative notifies the court. Once it is confirmed, the court will consider probate closed. No further action is required by the personal representative.
Understanding how probate works makes it less intimidating should you have to go through it. A probate lawyer in Melbourne, FL can assist with the preparation of a will and getting through the probate process from beginning to end.
Thanks to the Law Offices of Arcadier, Biggie & Wood for their insight into estate planning and probate.