Administering a loved one's will can seem stressful. Not only do you have grief at the loss to deal with, but now you have the responsibility of ensuring things get done according to the wishes he or she left behind.
Probate may seem scary if you do not know how the process works. Going through probate is not quick, but it does not have to drag either. Understanding the basic process may help you when going through it for the first time.
When is probate necessary?
When someone dies and leaves behind a will, it has to go through the court system. Not because there is something wrong with it, but so the estate is processed properly. If this is a parent who dies without a spouse, the estate may include the prior assets left by the spouse who died first. Probate ensures that creditors get paid and that heirs get what the decedent left them.
How does the process work?
Once a will triggers, upon death, it is up to the administrator, or executor, to file it with the local clerk of court. This begins the probate process. The administrator then must gather an accounting of the estate, including:
- Property (not held jointly)
- Bank accounts
- Assets (stocks, investment accounts, etc.)
If there is a trust, that does not have to go through probate. Trust beneficiaries receive those items directly upon death, and the same goes for insurance policies and 401(k) accounts.
Next, creditors and heirs named in the will receive notification. Creditors with valid claims must present this information to the court or administrator to receive payment. When debts resolve, heirs receive their share.
When does probate end?
The process is complete once the estate no longer contains anything else. When everything has gone to the intended recipients, the administrator files a notice with the court that closes the estate.
Getting help with administering a will is a great idea, especially if the process is foreign. You can always seek the guidance of an attorney to aid in probate and will administration.