Did you have a loved one recently pass away? Were you named the executor of the loved one's estate? This is likely a difficult time. You may be grieving the loss of your loved one while also dealing with their estate and finances. As executor, it's your job to guide the estate through probate. Probate is the legal process of settling one's estate. Probate can be complex depending on the size of the deceased's estate. However, in most cases, it's a relatively simple process. As long as you complete all the necessary steps, you should be done with your role as executor in a short period. Below are four critical steps you'll need to complete as an executor.
File a petition. Probate starts with you filing a petition in court to begin the probate process. You fill out the paperwork with your local probate court and present the will and a death certificate. The court will have a hearing to approve you as executor. Unless someone challenges your role as executor, this hearing is usually a formality. Challenges and conflicts often arise when there is no will, when the will is unclear, or when there are conflicts between siblings or other loved ones.
Inventory assets. Once you're approved as executor, the next step is to inventory the deceased's assets. This can be a time-consuming process, especially if they didn't leave any documentation about their finances. You'll need to inventory everything that needs to be distributed to heirs, including real estate, personal property, investments, bank accounts, and much more. You will also need to place an estimated value on each asset. For some assets, like investments and bank accounts, this should be simple. For others, like real estate or personal property, you may need to have the asset appraised.
Pay all debts and bills. It's possible that your loved one passed away with debts and bills that aren't eliminated because they passed away. You'll have to pay those debts before the assets can be released from probate. This should be an easy process if your loved one has sufficient money in their bank account to pay the debts. If they don't, you may have to sell assets to raise the money. You will also need to file a final tax return for them and pay any unpaid taxes before assets can be distributed.
Distribute assets. Once you have liquidated assets and paid debts, it's time to distribute the assets to the heirs. If your deceased left a will, it should state how assets should be distributed and who should get what. If they didn't leave a will, you'll need to follow your state's intestacy laws. Things can get complicated if there's no will in place. A probate lawyer can help you navigate the process.
A probate attorney can help with every step of the probate process. For more information, contact a probate attorney near you.