Probate refers to a court-supervised process whereby all the assets of the deceased person are gathered and taxes and debts are paid, with the remainder distributed to heirs. Court supervision is only necessary when family members, relatives, or creditors are hostile over the remaining estate. In this article, we will take a look at the various steps involved in the probate process.
How Probate Starts
The first thing is to ask the probate court to name a personal representative or executor. Before making this request, you are required to file an application and death certificate. You may also need to provide the original will to the local probate court where the deceased lived before his demise. The document is called a petition (in some jurisdictions, an “application”).
Information that should be contained in the petition includes:
- Date of death.
- Names of family members that survived the deceased.
- Beneficiaries named in the will.
- Assets of the Decedent
The court will provide a form for you to complete. If not, you may have to type from scratch.
The First Hearing
If someone objects to the petition for probate, a hearing will be scheduled by the court. At the hearing, interested parties will be able to object to the petitioner’s appointment as personal representative. Prior to that, you will be required to send a formal legal notice to heirs and beneficiaries named in the will as well as creditors. You can alert others by publishing a legal notice in the local newspaper.
In the absence of any objections, a document will be issued authorizing you to act on behalf of the estate entitled the “Letters of Administration”.
Posting a Bond
Furthermore, you will be required to post a bond by the court. This is effectively an insurance policy that protects the estate from any form of loss up to a specified amount of dollars. While some wills may specify that no bond is needed, some courts always require a bond, even if it is in a “nominal” amount to cover court costs. Obtaining the waiver by all interested parties will reduce the size of the bond needed.
Proving the Validity of the Will
It is also essential that you prove that a will is valid. The various ways of proving the validity of a will include:
- Court testimony from a witness
- A signed statement also referred to as a “self-proving affidavit”
- A sworn statement signed by a witness
Managing Estate Property
After the probate estate is opened, the personal representative must gather the assets together. He also opens a bank account using the name of the estate. This account can be used to pay creditors who file claims. So as to allow creditors enough time to come forward, probate cases must remain open at least six months.
It is important that you provide a list of the property of the deceased person to the court. Sometimes, the personal representative will need court permission to sell any of the real estate properties or a business. Other times, the executor may pay claims of creditors and sell real estate property without any court approval.
Giving Property to Beneficiaries
Furthermore, it may not be possible to give beneficiaries their legacies until the estate possesses enough assets to settle taxes and debts. However, if there is enough money to settle expenses and taxes, the personal representative may begin to share some assets prior to the completion of the proceeding. State laws may put a limit on the amount of property that can be distributed before the probate ends.
Distributing Property and Closing Estate the
The last step is to distribute the remaining property and close the estate. This should be done once all creditors’ claims have been settled, all debts paid, tax returns filed, and disputes settled. Once the remaining properties have been distributed, you can then close the estate. Once this is done, the personal representative will be relieved of his duties as executor. As part of this process, the court receives a detailed account of estate activities, expenses and final disbursements.
There you have it! The above are the various steps involved in the probate process. In case you are in need of an experienced probate and real estate attorney to take charge of the probate process, we are the perfect fit to get it done. Contact us today. We guarantee you excellent, professional services.
Brian Gormley, Esq. is an attorney licensed in Maryland and the District of Columbia specializing in real estate, probate, estate litigation and other matters. If you need assistance, please use the Contact Feature at the bottom of this page.