The probate process is something that sounds daunting, especially to folks who've never dealt with it before. It's critical to remember, however, that probate is generally a fairly straightforward process and one that's designed to protect your rights. Take a look at what you can expect as the process moves ahead.
1. Naming an Executor
Someone will need to be in charge of the process. This usually calls for petitioning the court to be named the executor—some states call them the personal representative—and then providing supporting paperwork, such as a death certificate. The original should also be supplied to the local probate court wherever the person was last living before passing. Even if the person lived in multiple counties, the probate proceedings will be consolidated into this single proceeding.
2. Determining the Type of Probate Proceeding
A minority of states use what is called the Uniform Probate Code. This is a system that simplifies the process and provides more flexibility to executors. UPC systems allow for informal probates without court hearings, but you can use two more structured processes.
In non-UPC states, it's still likely the court will mostly be involved to handle the paperwork and to make sure it protects the rights of all parties. Note, however, this doesn't mean you should forgo hiring a probate lawyer. It simply means you probably won't be spending extensive time in court.
3. Serving a Notice to All Interested Parties
Once a court date is put on the calendar, all identifiable interested parties will be served notice. This will give them time to obtain probate lawyer services if desired and to decide whether they have any concerns. If there are challenges to the execution of the estate, they should be formally mentioned during the initial hearing.
4. Posting a Bond
If the court determines there are potentially sticky issues involved with the case, the executor will be asked to post a bond. This provides insurance in case the executor inflicts losses on the estate through their actions. A requirement of a bond is more likely if the executor is not from the same state as the deceased.
5. Validating the Will
The last big step before assets are distributed is validating the will if there is one. In the absence of a will, the court will make a good faith effort to determine what the deceased's will was and who the beneficiaries should be. Once the will is settled, debts and taxes will be paid. Beneficiaries will then receive the remaining assets.
To learn more about the process, contact services such as Katzman Logan Halper & Bennett.