When someone dies, their loved ones are often left with a lot of questions about what to do next. This is especially true if the deceased left a complex estate. Thankfully, there is an established process for administering an estate after someone dies.
Probate is the process of proving that a will is valid and of distributing the deceased person’s assets according to the will. If the will is not valid, or if there is no will, then the probate process determines who gets what from the estate.
The first step in probate is usually filing a petition with the probate court. This petition identifies the deceased person, the executor of the estate and any beneficiaries. As part of the probate and estate administration process, the executor will need to gather all of the deceased person’s assets and liabilities, so it is important to have an accurate accounting.
Notice to creditors
After the petition is filed, the executor must give notice to any known creditors of the estate. This notice informs them of the probate proceeding and gives them a chance to file a claim against the estate.
Notice to beneficiaries
After the creditors get notified, the executor must give notice to any beneficiaries named in the will. This gives them a chance to object to the probate proceeding or to make a claim against the estate.
Inventory and appraisal of assets
The executor must take an inventory of all the assets in the estate and have them appraised. This is necessary to determine the value of the estate for tax purposes.
Distribution of assets
After the estate has been appraised, the executor can begin to distribute the assets to the beneficiaries. This usually happens in stages as different assets get distributed.
Generally, these are the main steps in the probate and estate administration process. Just remember that if there are disagreements among the beneficiaries, the executor may need to file a petition with the probate court asking for guidance on how to proceed.