The 4 Steps of Probate

If you are named the personal representative of an estate, you may have an overwhelming feeling of dread about to how the distribution process works, especially probate. Some states do not require a will to go through the process, while others do. You may want to familiarize yourself with these four steps in advance, so you know what to expect. Each is simple, but depending on your local laws, the process may take some time.

  1. Begin the Process With a Petition

As the executor, it is your responsibility to make sure the will gets appropriately administered. The first step in the probate process is filing a petition with the proper court. If there is no will, filing a petition asks the court to appoint someone to administer the will (without a will, there is no named executor). Simultaneously with this step, you must send notice any named beneficiaries (if there is a will) and any potential heirs or beneficiaries (if there is no will). The notice informs them of the potential that they will receive something from the estate or that they have the right to get a copy of any order.

  1. Send a Notice to the Creditors

After the petition is accepted and the administrator is appointed by the court, it is time to inform the creditors of the death and probate process. An evaluation of the contents of the estate must be done. This includes:

  • Property
  • Assets
  • Business ownership
  • Stocks
  • Bonds

The creditors then have a specific amount of time in which to file a claim against the estate to recover any outstanding money. The timeframe allowed varies by state law.

  1. Pay Requisite Expenses First

Once the money becomes available for use, the first things that the representative must pay are funeral expenses. If there are any fees to distribute the estate, those are also paid. After these have been paid, the representative must determine which creditors’ claims are valid and pay only those.

  1. Distribute the Remainder of the Estate

Once the bills get paid, the representative goes about distributing the remaining property and assets per the decedent’s wishes set out in the will. Any beneficiary who wishes may request a financial statement of how the estate was handled up to this point. Any trusts that are to be created by the estate get created at this point. The representative then closes out the estate once the process is complete.

The probate process can run smoothly, especially if the decedent left a valid will outlining how things are to get broken up. After that, it is up to the representative to carry out those wishes as best as they can. Speak to an estate planning lawyer if you have any questions.


Source: Probate Lawyer Cherry Hill, NJ, Klenk Law