Probate is a court-overseen proceeding in which a decedent’s will is evaluated for reliability. The executor of the will is to provide documentation regarding the deceased person’s wishes, assets and outstanding debts to the court. If there was no will written, then the person who passed shall have their remaining treasures distributing based on state laws. Surviving family members may not even know where to begin when it comes to probate. An attorney can provide more information regarding each step of the probate process.
The Initial Probate Hearing
Once the court receives a petition for probate, a hearing will be scheduled. Beneficiaries listed in the will or heirs based on state law (if no will was created) are to receive a legal notification. Creditors must also be notified of the decedent’s passing, in addition to positing the news in a local newspaper. The initial probate hearing is typically only a formality, and the court can authorize the executor to act on behalf on the decedent’s wishes.
Proving Will Legitimacy
If a will was created, then it must be proven to be valid. An attorney can answer any questions or concerns you have about this crucial step. In most cases, all that is required is evidence from witnesses including either:
- A sworn statement which was signed by a witness,
- A court testimony from a witness, or
- A “self-proving affidavit” (a notarized statement witnesses signed as the will was authenticated).
Will Executor Duties
The probate process can take anywhere from many months up to year, or longer. The executor is to find and safeguard the decedent’s assets throughout the entire probate process. The executor is also responsible for paying creditors who come forward with requests to receive remainder of debts. Other duties the executor may perform are listed as follows:
- Meet with family members or beneficiaries as needed regarding will
- Appraisal of assets, collections and/or property
- Selling estate property in order to pay off debts
- Attend hearings regarding decedent’s will
- Distribute remaining assets to those listed in will
The Last Step of Probate
To the unfortunate news of beneficiaries, receiving their share of the decedent’s assets is usually the very last step and often requires court permission. The will executor sends all financial transactions he or she has performed on behalf of the estate to the court, and if everything is in order then the judge can close the estate. Only then can the decedent’s assets be transferred to beneficiaries based on what is written in the will.
Those looking for help during the probate process can benefit from consulting with a probate lawyer Cherry Hill, NJ residents turn to. Legal professionals understand the inner workings of this potentially grueling and prolonged process.
Thank you to our friends and contributors at Klenk Law for their knowledge about estate planning and the probate process.