Families left behind by the passing of a loved one go through a whirlwind of emotions. They are engulfed by a strong feeling of sadness followed by confusion when it comes to knowing that many legal and financial matters should be handled.
Grieving over the loss of a loved one takes a lot of time; however legal matters must be properly managed so that assets are distributed to the rightful heirs.
Probate and Its Purpose
Probate is the process of administering the estate of the decedent. It is where the property of the deceased is passed on to the rightful heirs and beneficiaries. All of this is supervised by a probate court.
Probate can be an intimidating process. The feeling of bewilderment is normal. However, having experienced legal counsel to guide you throughout the process will make you feel at ease. If you are the personal representative or executor designated by the decedent himself in his or her will and/or appointed by the court, you will work with legal counsel in the administration of the estate.
The Probate Process
The process includes but is not limited to some of the duties listed below that the Personal Representative/Executor will manage along with legal counsel:
Petition the Court
You need to file a petition at the probate court to begin the administration. There are two types of administration: formal and summary.
Notify Parties With Related Interests
Such parties include creditors, beneficiaries, and heirs. They hold an interest in the estate and can file a claim against it. That is why they need to be notified by directly notifying them and through a publication.
Collect the Assets
This step is the reason why securing the property early is essential. This is to make sure that all of the assets of the decedent are properly accounted for and maintained. You need to make an inventory of all assets to be filed with the court.
Unfortunately, there are still bills due even after the death of our loved ones. That is why, aside from taking note of all of their assets, liabilities should also be accounted for. Such bills are categorized based on their priority. Creditors are also entitled to payment based on priority.
File Tax Returns
The final income tax return of the decedent needs to be filed. Failure to pay tax on the deadline will incur the estate penalties and interests. However, if you don’t have sufficient information available, you can file for an extension and pay the best estimate later on. It is always best to consult an accountant or tax professional when it comes to taxes.
Distribution of the Property
Once you have paid all the necessary administrative expenses, taxes, and creditors, you can then distribute the remaining assets to the heirs and any legatees in the order designated by statute.
File a Final Account
A detailed account must be filed to the probate court unless waived by all parties. It includes the list of all tax filling, payments of bills, and the distribution of the assets. After the court approves the account, you may distribute the remaining funds to the authorized persons who have the right to the claims.
The probate process can be tedious but is an important process that the ones left behind should process as soon as possible. This is not an easy conversation but one that should be addressed in advance for it to be beneficial to everyone in your family. Hence, the importance of estate planning which can eliminate the need for probate or at the very least simplify the process. Contact us to discuss your estate plan.