Being appointed to oversee an estate can be both an honor and an overwhelming responsibility. Since most executor's duties are tied to the probate process, having an understanding of this process can help provide potential executors with an overview of what will be expected of them. Read on to learn more about the 4 steps in the probate process and the tasks that will await you as the estate's executor.
1. The Probate Court Filing
Once you have met with the estate attorney, the will is submitted to your local county probate court. Normally, a notice will be concurrently placed in a local newspaper alerting any affected creditors about the death, and inviting them to file claims against the estate for debts owed. As the executor, you can expect to work closely with the estate attorney during the next several months while the will works its way through the probate process. The most important burden of the executor during this time is to ensure that the wishes of the deceased are carried out in an accurate, fair and honest manner. A large part of your responsibilities will include dealing with the beneficiaries of the will, who will be informed about their inclusion in the will by the probate court. As an aside, the contents of the will automatically becomes public with its filing in probate court.
2. The Estate Inventory
Soon after the probate filing, you must perform an accounting of the contents of the estate. This includes both assets and debts. You will very likely need the services of a professional appraiser to obtain an accurate value of any real estate holdings, as well as art, jewelry or other valuable items.
Most estates contain many different types of assets, such as real estate, vehicle, boats, bank accounts, investment accounts, pets and more. Additionally, some debts (bills) of the estate must be paid during probate, and others must be paid once probate is complete; follow the attorney's guidance on what bills to pay and when to pay them.
3. Probate is Complete
Probate can take months to complete, depending on your locality, the size of the estate and the estate's complexity. Once you receive the final probate disposition, the primary responsibility of distributing the assets of the estate falls upon your shoulders. The beneficiaries will have likely already been contacted and alerted to their forthcoming bequeaths, and a financial accounting of all estate monies spent during probate (such as appraisal fees or real estate clean-out costs) will be provided to the heirs.
4. The Legal Transfers
The final matter, in which the new owners of the estate property take possession, is mostly left to the beneficiaries. For real estate, a quit claim deed and presentation of the death certificate will transfer ownership and for vehicle transfers, new titles will be issued. The remainder of the property can simply be taken possession of, using a death certificate and copy of the will if necessary.
To learn more about the duties of an executor and the probate process, contact an estate attorney. Contact a business, such as the Skeen Law Offices, for more information.