Bidding the final farewell to our loved ones is never easy. At a time when all you want to do is remember them and grieve for your loss, the last thing you need is to get caught up in the probate process. Unfortunately, it seems that there are high chances that you’d get caught up in it anyway.
Probate is the process of distributing property and assets and it takes place when there wasn’t proper estate planning before the departure of the owner. For instance, if the decedent failed to leave a will, left a will that’s partially or fully legally invalid, failed to open living trusts, or left insufficient funds in the trusts, then the probate process becomes necessary.
If you’ve just inherited a property and you’re overwhelmed about what needs to be done, here’s a simple guide to help you.
Who Do You Need by Your Side in Probate
Before you start with the probate process, you’ll need the presence of qualified personnel by your side to give you the proper advice you need as you progress. The people you’ll need are as follows:
1. Probate Lawyer
It’s important that you cover all ground that needs to be covered. Having an experienced estate lawyer will be invaluable for proper estate planning, which can avoid the probate process altogether. However, in case it’s too late, a probate lawyer will still help you make the best out of this phase.
They’ll help you gather the documents that need to be collected, will help you with through the petition process and the way in closing the estate, and they’ll give you the advice you need every step of the way. Probate can be a long and exhausting process, and you’ll need all the help you can get.
2. Probate Real Estate Agent
After inheriting a property, you’ll have a couple of options available. You can get its ownership or sell it, but sometimes it’s not as simple as that. For instance, the property would be rented with a lease contract with a specific duration. To handle the property, you’ll first need to acquire its ownership.
While you might think of seeking your real estate agent, and while technically probate sales function in a similar way to real estate, you should seek the help of a real estate agent who specializes in probate. This process requires additional documentation and paperwork that are specific to probate.
3. Personal Representative
If you’ve been named as executor in the decedent’s will, then this role befalls upon you. However, there are times when you’ll find the help of an unbiased third-party valuable in this process, such as having a contested will or when most of the beneficiaries are living far away.
What to Do in Probate
The probate process is divided into a few steps as follows:
1. Pre-Petition for Probate
Before you (or your lawyer) petition for probate, it’s time to collect all the official documents left behind by the decedent. Most commonly, you’ll need the death certificate, original wills, and the formal petition forms. You still don’t have any legal authority to deal with the decedent’s properties and assets at this phase, you’re just preparing for the hearing.
2. Filing A Petition
With the help of your lawyer, you’ll file the petition and attend your first hearing at the court. Once everything is finalized, you or your personal representative will be granted the legal right to act as the executor and handle the property and asset distribution of the estate.
3. Estate Administration
This is when the distribution process takes place, along with finalizing any finances on behalf of the decedent. During this phase, you’ll start by alerting the beneficiaries about the death and the inheritance.
This is also when you’ll inventory the decedent’s properties and assets, listing everything they own. After paying any remaining bills, repaying debts, and finalizing taxes, the remainder of the property will be distributed according to the wishes of the decedent if they’d left a will, or according to the law in case of its absence.
4. Closing the Estate
Once everything has been taken care of, you’ll close the estate in what’s known as the final accounting process. This is a detailed report that covers in detail any legal and financial transactions done in the estate administration process. After filing an affidavit and closing the estate, the probate lawyer will be paid from the estate funds.
Proper estate planning is essential to bypass all the hassle that comes with probate. On failing to prepare well, the beneficiaries will have to go through the probate process to get their inheritance. During this process, having the expertise of probate lawyers, probate, real estate agents, and personal representatives will guide through the steps of probate.