Probate is a court-supervised process carried out after someone dies, with the aim of disbursing their estate lawfully to the rightful inheritors. The executor named in the person’s will is responsible for initiating probate by filing some documents to the probate court. Even when there is no will, probate may still be carried out. In this case, the court will appoint an estate administrator who will also have the same responsibilities as the executor. They would begin by filing probate documents to the court.
Get help from a probate attorney
Now, knowing you were named as the executor in the will or being appointed as the administrator, it is advisable to seek help from a probate attorney. A probate attorney can help speed up the probate process because of their experience in this legal area of specialization. With so many forms to fill and probate documents to take care of, a probate attorney is in the right position to get them done because they already know what is required at each given step of probate.
How can a probate attorney help you find probate documents
Having hired a probate attorney, you still have to file a petition to the probate court for probate to commence. The petition should contain the decedent’s original last will, death certificate, and a formal written petition to open the estate for probate. Now, you may not know exactly where these documents are kept, especially the last will. But a probate attorney can help you find probate documents.
There are several probate documents that you need access to as the executor, such as deed forms, certificates of ownership, tax forms, other details about the person and their estate, as well as records of other past probate processes. The information from these documents are very vital, but you may not readily have access to them. A probate attorney can help you.
Your probate attorney can help you request for probate documents and probate records from the county’s probate court. Note that some states have different names for their probate court, such as Surrogate’s Court (like in New York) and Circuit Court. Whatever the case, these records are public, but you may have to pay and wait some time to go get it. But a probate attorney can help you get them easily by reason of being a local legal practitioner in that very county.
How to probate an estate quickly
1. Filing the probate petition
Probate officially begins when you file the probate petition to the court. You do this by filing the will and death certificate alongside a written petition to commence probate. Once the court accepts it, the estate is declared “open”. You will then be given a document known as Letters Testamentary, authorizing you to settle the estate. If you were appointed as an estate administrator, then the document given is Letters of Administration.
2. Collecting and taking inventory of all assets in the estate
The next step is to take inventory of all that the decedent owned. You have to locate each asset and identify how they’re owned. This involves getting a hold of all their documents, personal papers, bank account statements, and any document you can lay hands on. In there, you should be able to determine the existence of investments, life insurance, bonds, shares, and any property they own.
3. Valuating the estate and opening a checking account
You then have to estimate the total value of the estate. You may choose to call a financial expert to do the assessment to avoid errors. Then you have to open a checking account from which you are to pay expenses. Yes, all your expenses during probate must come from the estate and not your purse.
4. Settling estate tax, creditors, and funeral expenses
Next, you have to file the tax return forms and pay any income and estate tax on the estate. You may have to consult a probate attorney to determine if the estate is subject to state or federal estate tax and how to go about settling them.
After settling tax, the next thing to settle is debts and final expenses. People will come claiming to be creditors of the deceased, and it’s your job to figure out what claim is legitimate. It’s advisable hiring an experienced probate attorney for professional guidance.
5. Distributing the assets
After all debts and financial obligations have been settled, you must then proceed to distributing the estate’s left-over to the beneficiaries. Before doing so, you need to get approval from the court by submitting a record of all the transactions you’ve made from the estate. If your accounting is accepted, you will be approved.
If there is a will, you have to follow the instructions in disbursing the estate. In the absence of one, you must follow state’s law of intestate succession.
Get help from a probate attorney near you
Looking for a probate attorney in New York? Our New York probate attorneys are ready to give you all the help you need. Call us today.