What Happens During the Probate Process?

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    The death of a loved one can be a devastating blow. This pain is often only made worse by the lengthy and complicated probate process. Probate is the legal process in which the court evaluates a deceased person’s estate and portions out their assets to creditors and heirs. This can happen even if the decedent — the deceased person – made a will. An heir should never take or use any of the decedent’s assets before probate has finished.

    Authenticating the Will

    Even if a decedent completed a will before their passing, their estate would need to undergo the probate process. Wills simply state intent and do not protect or save assets for their heirs. Transferring their assets to a living trust is the only way for a person to avoid probate when they die.

    If a decedent only had a will, the will would be authenticated by filing it with probate documents. The court may require a death certificate, depending on the state. This would give friends, family, and other invested parties the opportunity to object to a will’s authenticity or validity, or object to the executor named to handle the estate. If a decedent did not have a will, the court would appoint an executor and move forward with probate without this step. In some cases, the court may issue bond to protect the estate against any financially destructive errors the executor may commit.

    Assessing the Estate During the Probate Process

    The court would then ask the executor to identify and locate all of the decedent’s assets, including investment accounts, vehicles, homes, and other non-liquid assets. A court-appointed appraiser will appraise the value of each asset. Appraisers must show their work in detail describing how they came to a particular asset’s value. This ensures an estate is not under- or over-valued due to bias, malice, or accident.

    Paying Debts and Partitioning Assets to Heirs

    Before any heirs can receive their inheritance, creditors will collect. The court will notify all creditors with outstanding loan amounts in the decedent’s name. These creditors have a brief amount of time to make claims against the estate for money owed. Some will forgive the account entirely upon death, others won’t. The executor will pay these claims out of the value of the decedent’s estate. Whoever is named executor will file a last tax return for the decedent to pay any back taxes and collect outstanding returns. The probate process concludes with a final accounting of the estate, notifying the court of the remaining value.

    At last, the executor can distribute the remainder of the estate to the heirs as the will (if there is one) dictates. Without a will, the estate passes to heirs determined by state law.

    Assisting the Inland Empire with Probate Paperwork

    The probate process is long, expensive, and emotionally exhausting. With paperwork to file every step of the way, there are so many opportunities to make mistakes that could prolong the probate process even more. Let the legal document assistants at ProSe Legal help you file all your documents right the first time. With our Probate Package, our team can remain with you the entirety of probate, assisting you with accounting, court requests, and more.

    If you’re struggling to understand the probate process, today or call (909) 497-1349 to schedule your appointment today!