The word probate frightens many, but this process of dealing with a person's last will and testament is very old and usually simple. As the personal representative (or executor) you might be charged with seeing the will through probate, but you should keep in mind that the probate attorney stands ready to assist you if you have questions. Knowing what's ahead might help, so read on to learn what the steps of probate are.
Locate and file the will: If you have searched the home and safe deposit boxes at the bank to no avail, you may need to ask for a copy of the will from the attorney that prepared it. A quick and casual reading of the will as soon as possible could turn up burial instructions but the formal reading can wait for a few days after the burial. The attorney will see to it that the will is filed in the probate court of the county of residence.
In some areas, they also place a notice in a local newspaper urging any creditors to step forward and contact the attorney if they intend to make any claims against the estate. You can expect a will to take several months to be probated and the more complicated it is the longer it will take. If anyone decides to contest the will then that will naturally cause delays in the final paperwork.
Inventory the estate: While this sounds a bit intimidating, it just means making a list of the property of the deceased. You don't need to list every piece of Tupperware but any valuable items should be listed with an approximate value. You can get some help from a professional appraiser for any real estate, however.
Maintain the home: Homes should be kept in good condition with any needed repairs taken care of. If the grass needs cutting or the roof needs to be repaired then it is your job to ensure it gets done. The idea is to keep the home in relatively the same condition as it was before the death.
Pay the bills of the estate: You will need to check with the attorney before you begin writing checks but you should be prepared to keep the heat or air conditioning, water and phones connected until probate is complete. Any taxes due must be filed.
Distribute the estate: After probate has run its course you will receive the final paperwork in the mail and it is time to ensure that all beneficiaries receive their inherited items. A copy of the death certificate and the probate paperwork should be enough to have vehicles and the home re-titled and re-deeded. Other property can be made available to all concerned.
Speak to a legal office like Wright Law Offices, PLLC to learn more.