Many people don't give the probate process a second thought until it directly affects them. While the unknown can be intimidating, just like anything else, the probate process can be broken down into logical and easy to understand steps. If someone dies, probate is very likely to happen, whether the deceased had a will or not. Read on to get the process broken down into 3 simple steps.
1. The filing of the will
Once the will has been located and read to any pertinent parties, it must be filed in your local county probate court. The reading of the will also heralds the naming of the person responsible for ensuring that the wishes of deceased are carried out properly by the personal representative or executor. Alongside the filing of the will, at least in most locales, comes the publishing of a notice to creditors in a local newspaper. This publishing gives notice to any creditors with an interest in the estate of the deceased to come forward within a certain period of time or lose the opportunity to have the debt repaid. Once the probate court has received the will, all beneficiaries will be notified, and the will becomes a public document.
2. An inventory is performed.
The will goes through the probate court process, which can take around 6 months, but can take much longer for larger, more complicated or contested estates. During this time, one of the first duties of the personal representative is to perform an inventory of all estate assets. Assets of the estate can include everything from the family home, vacation homes, boats, cars, art, jewelry, the funds in checking and savings accounts, stocks, bonds and more.
The value of real estate must be determined by utilizing the services of a professional home appraiser. In many estates, property may be prepared for sale and even sold if the debts of the estate require it. The personal representative must keep careful records of any funds used and the purpose, as this accounting will become part of the final probate paperwork. For example, if the services of a maintenance person are required to keep the home safe from the elements during probate, this transaction must be part of the completed probate paperwork.
3. The probate is final
The final paperwork will be handed down at probate's completion and will serve as the prompt for the personal representative to distribute the property according to the deceased's wishes. Beneficiaries will need a copy of the death certificate to have property transferred to their names. Any real estate will be transferred via a name change on the deed (via a quit claim in some states), and vehicles and boats are issued new titles with the new owner's name. Other property, such as personal belongings, can simply be handed over to the designated beneficiary.