What are the ramifications of an estate going into probate? While your mind might be conjuring up images of courtroom dramas such as Perry Mason, it isn’t entirely like that. Like everything else within the legal system, there is a process involved in probate, and it really isn’t anything to be feared. Like everything else in life, there is a process that must be followed, consisting of these steps:
There Is the Appointment of a Personal Representative
In most cases, the appointment of a personal representative is the first step in the probate process. An individual can either request to be appointed, or one can be drafted into the role by a third party. The individual handling the probate of the other person’s state will often request the services of a lawyer, but not always.
All Interested Parties and Creditors Must Be Notified
The next step would be for the personal representative (either with or without the aid of a lawyer) to mail a notice to any interested parties in regards to the decedent’s estate. A notice should also be published in the paper regarding to let any creditors know about the decedent’s estate.
The Hearing Takes Place
A few weeks after the notice has been made in the paper, the hearing will take place. This hearing has several purposes, including determining if the will is valid and appointing a personal representative if it hasn’t been done already. There are times where the court will require those who witnessed the decedent signing something to issue a declaration. Barring any objections, the petition will be approved.
The Personal Representative Will Manage All the Probate Assets
It is the duty of the personal representative to identify and take possession of all of the probate assets until the tax returns have been filed and all debts have been paid. This is a process that will normally last at least a year. In some cases, the personal representative will have to sell personal property as well as securities and real estate. One example of this part of the process would be an estate that mostly consists of artwork. If that estate has been giving out cash gifts, some of that artwork may need to be sold to make up for the cash gifts.
The Personal Representative Files a Report
After the debts and taxes have been paid, the personal representative will file a report with the court that will account for the income received and payments made on behalf of the decedent’s estate. The judge then authorizes the personal representative to divide the remaining assets among the different people and organizations listed in the will. Of course, there are situations where people will “contest” the will, but it can only be those who have a personal financial stake in the matter. Examples of this would include someone who only got a third of the estate while others got two-thirds; someone who was cut out of the will completely; or an individual who doesn’t think that the decedent was of sound mind when the will was drawn up.