7 Common Steps in Settling a Probate Estate

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7 Common Steps in Settling a Probate Estate

Whether an estate or intestate estate, the process is the same except for a little twitching to suit a particular case

  • Check for the will of the decedent

This is the first step to begin the process of settling a probate estate. You may have to check for it among their important documents, from their attorney and even in safe boxes which may likely be with the permission of the probate court judge. Meanwhile, it is possible for the decedent not to have a will but a trust. However, if there is no will and the decedent had no trust then, the estate is said to be intestate.

  • Filing for a probate in the court

The filing of the will could be done by a friend or family member, but this does not mean such person will be appointed as the executor. The executor is most likely to be appointed officially after a brief hearing in the court and giving the letters testamentary. A document which gives him or her legal authority to act on behalf of the estate when the estate is intestate, the executor is referred to as the administrator.  The court chooses an executor or administrator based on the law of the state. They choose in this order of preference; surviving spouses, children (adults), parents, siblings etc.

  • Notify relevant persons and maybe the general public

The executor has to notify creditors, financial institutions, and beneficiaries of the death of the decedent. His or her accounts should be frozen with only the executor having access to them. Publishing a notice in the newspaper for the general public is a requirement in some states.

  • Take stock and check the value of every asset and document

The next thing for the executor to do is to find and take stock of everything owned by the decedent. Including landed properties, bond and stock certificates, income tax returns for the last three years, banks accounts and every other asset there is. The executor is to keep everything safe until the probate. Then, establish the date-of-death values for every asset. Although, there are assets that don’t require probate because they are transferred directly to beneficiaries such as; a real estate named after a beneficiary or one that is jointly owned, or maybe a retirement account with a beneficiary. However, there should be a professional appraisal of those assists that require probate such as businesses, real estates or landed properties, personal items including jewelries, artwork etc. And also, the financial accounts as of the date-of-death should be made obvious from records and statements.

  • Pay necessary bills and settle creditors

The next step is to pay any estate and income taxes that is due. As well as preparing and filing the decedent’s final federal and state personal income tax returns and any other required income tax returns. The executor also has to pay the final bills as well as all the expenses of the estate such as utilities, legal fees, insurance premiums, mortgage payments and accounting fees.

  • Appropriate distribution of the assets

Give an account to the court and seek an order for the final distribution of the assets to the beneficiaries. Then, distribute the remaining assets after expenditure and also pay your counsel and yourself as Executor or Administrator of the Estate or intestate estate.

  • Request for the estate to be closed

Finally, after distribution, submit all records and receipts to the court and request for the estate to be closed and for you to be released as an executor or administrator.

Although, a probate attorney is an important resource to facilitate the process and ensure the executor carries out the process properly, completely and timely, as well as avoid unnecessary costs yet, the executor of an estate or administrator of an intestate estate can settle the estate by himself or herself by simply following the decedent’s instructions contained in the will or by following the probate code in a situation where there is no will. Likewise, the trustee of the decedent’s trust will most likely be able to settle the trust without a court intervention, in as much as he or she follows the decedent’s instructions as stated in the trust.


Must there be a will to proceed with a probate?

No, without a will you can still precede with probate.

Do I need a probate attorney?

Not necessarily, although it’s an important resource to facilitate the process.

Do I necessarily need a court intervention?

No, by simply following the instructions in the will or trust or the probate code for an intestate estate, you can settle the estate by yourself.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. The content of this blog may not reflect the most current legal developments. No attorney-client relationship is formed by reading this blog or contacting Morgan Legal Group PLLP.

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