Probate is the legal process in which a will is proven valid in court. If you are the executor of someone’s estate, you are responsible for beginning the probate process. Here are several important things you should know about probate.
Not All Assets Have to Be Probated
First and foremost, it is important to understand that not all assets are required to go through probate. For example, if the decedent named a relative as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy or 401K plan, these assets do not have to be probated. Similarly, if property was jointly owned, the co-owner will automatically receive the property when the other owner dies.
Debts Do not Go Away When a Person Dies
Some people are under the false impression that debts are automatically wiped out when someone dies. The truth is that these debts still have to be paid. If you are the executor of an estate, you are required to pay the decedent’s outstanding debts with the estate funds. Once these debts are paid, the remaining funds can be distributed to the proper heirs.
Probate Can Sometimes Take a Long Time
While it would be ideal if the probate process was always finalized within a few months, it is not always the case. If there are complications with the estate, probate may take longer than a year to finalize. For instance, if someone decides to contest the will, it can drag out the process. That is why it is important to be patient.
Probate Comes with Fees
There are definitely costs associated with the probate process. These fees include filing a petition to allow a will, issuing a citation and filing estate accounts. Additionally, the executor of the estate is entitled to receive money for his or her services.
Probate Is Public
Probate is a public court process, so anyone can request files of it. This can make some people uneasy, especially if they are private people. Those who are uneasy about their private information being out in the open may want to consult an estate planning lawyer as soon as possible. He or she can advise how to avoid probate.
The Court Will Oversee Probate
It is important to note that a judge will oversee the probate process to make sure that everything is done correctly. If a judge sees that something is wrong, he or she will intervene.
The Executor Is Required to Send Notices
After the decedent has died, the executor must notify heirs and creditors that the probate process has begun. He or she is responsible for keeping these people informed. Sending a notice will give creditors ample time to make claims against the estate if necessary.
If you need assistance with probate, you may want to contact a probate lawyer — according to our friends at W.B. Moore Law — as soon as possible. A lawyer can address all of your questions and concerns about the process.