Understanding the Probate Process
The person who created the will designated a person in the will to be the executor — also known as the personal representative. In order to adequately protect a loved one’s estate, it’s critical that the personal representative understand the rules, processes, and procedures involved in this court-managed process. In general, the process includes locating and determining the value of the deceased’s assets, paying their final bills and taxes, and distributing the remainder of the estate to their rightful beneficiaries.
What Does the Personal Representative Do?
The individual will be tasked with:
- Filing a petition with the county probate court.
- Petitioning to appoint a personal representative (if there’s a will) or administrator of the estate.
- Sending out formal notices to heirs and beneficiaries to give them the opportunity to review, challenge, or contest the will.
- Sending a notice to known creditors and posting a public notice to creditors to alert them to the situation so they can make their claims.
- Gathering the deceased’s assets, inventorying them, and getting appraisals for them.
- Selling estate assets.
- Paying all remaining taxes and debts.
- Transferring assets to the designated beneficiaries or as intestacy law dictates.
- Keeping careful and complete records of how estate assets are distributed.
- Keeping the assets of the estate safe.
If you’re a personal representative, you could be held personally liable for making mistakes when handling the estate. If you misrepresent the value of an asset, you could be held accountable by the IRS or by the beneficiaries. If the heirs prove that you’ve shortchanged them, you could have to reimburse them out of your own pocket. Other errors to avoid:
- Failing to notify heirs when required to do so
- Distributing money and other assets before paying all valid claims of creditors
- Missing deadlines
- Not following the terms of the will
- Failing to file tax returns on behalf of the decedent and estate
How We Can Help with Probate
Probate can feel like an overwhelming process. Our skilled probate attorney and team will be there to guide you every step of the way and help with items like:
- Locating and securing probate assets and non-probate assets
- Obtaining date of death values and appraisals of the decedent’s property
- Preparing and filing documents required by the probate court in a timely manner
- Collecting life insurance proceeds
- Rolling over and making appropriate elections with regard to retirement plans, including IRAs and 401(k)s
- Advising on the payment of the decedent’s final bills and outstanding debts
- Keeping track of the estate ‘s checking account
- Determining if any federal or state estate taxes and/or inheritance taxes will be due, and if so, then figuring out where the cash will come from to pay the taxes
- Addressing income tax issues
- Settling disputes among personal representatives and beneficiaries
- Assisting with the sale of estate property
- Requesting court permission for different actions as required by state probate laws
- Retitling the real estate into the names of the estate beneficiaries if it’s not being sold
- Distributing the remaining estate assets to the beneficiaries after bills and taxes are paid
Contact The Heritage Law Center to Work with an Experienced Woburn Probate Attorney
There are frequently unexpected complexities to the probate process, which is why so many attorneys, like ours, work hard to help clients avoid the process. Nevertheless, we’re here to manage all legal complications in order to lighten the burden on you and your family during this difficult time. We’ll stand by you every step of the way, clarifying issues as we address them, and offering you the compassion that is, for us, an integral part of our job. Contact our law firm for a free consultation.