There is no specific timeline for probate. Depending on how complex an estate is, Probate can take 6 months or even 3 years to wrap up. However, to probate an estate quickly, you would need to be proactive in carrying out your duties as an executor. First off, you have to file the probate petition as early as possible after the testator’s death. Then you also need to know what comes next after each step, so that you know what to do beforehand. Being proactive makes you more efficient and it helps to move probate more quickly. It also helps having an experienced probate attorney working by your side.
A probate attorney brings so much to the table. They educate you on the process, and assist you in carrying out your duties. If it will take you two days to understand and fill out a tax return form for the estate, it may take an experienced probate attorney just a few hours. Out of experience, probate attorneys can help you carry out your administrative duties so much faster.
In addition, your attorney would help in resolving family disputes without them escalating into full blown lawsuits. Having a lawsuit only serves to prolong probate, and you surely don’t want that.
To ensure your probate process moves on quickly, then it’s advisable to hire a probate attorney.
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How to probate an estate
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 lawyer near you
Having a probate lawyer by your side eases things for you. They can represent you in court and explain the will and every legal jargon you need to understand. In addition, having an attorney by your side brings you credibility in the eyes of the beneficiaries. Hence, there is less tendency for them to accuse you of fraud or mismanagement.
Get help from a probate lawyer near you today.