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What happens during probate?

On Behalf of | Jan 22, 2024 | Probate & Trust Administration

When a loved one passes away, their estate often goes through a legal process known as probate. Probate is a court-supervised procedure that ensures that people distribute the dead person’s assets according to their will or the state’s laws if there is no will.

This process can be complex, but breaking it down into key steps helps to demystify the journey.

Initiating the probate process

The first step in probate is starting the process. This involves filing a petition with the probate court, typically in the county where the deceased person lived. The court then validates the will, if there is one, and appoints an executor to oversee the estate.

Counting the assets

Once appointed, the executor must compile an inventory of the dead person’s assets. This includes everything from real estate and bank accounts to personal belongings. The goal is to establish the overall value of the estate, a big factor in determining how others handle debts and distributions.

Notifying creditors and settling debts

One important aspect of probate is addressing the outstanding debts of the deceased. The executor must notify creditors of the death, allowing them to make claims against the estate.

They then settle the debts using the estate’s assets. With just credit card balances in America reaching a total of $1.03 trillion in the second quarter of 2023, the deceased may owe a lot more than people expect. If there is not enough to cover all debts, state laws dictate which debts it goes to first.

Distributing the assets

Once people settle all debts, the beneficiaries can have the remaining assets according to the terms outlined in the will or the state’s laws. This distribution is a significant phase, as it marks the culmination of the probate process. The executor plays a big role in ensuring that each beneficiary receives their rightful share.

Closing the estate

After all of these steps, the final part is to close the estate. The executor must file a petition with the probate court, providing an account of how people handled the estate. Once the court approves, the process is over.

Any death may be a person’s first time encountering probate. Each step plays a big role in ensuring a fair and legal distribution of assets. While the loss of a loved one is never easy, navigating probate with clarity can provide a sense of closure for all involved.