When a loved one passes away, many people have the concept in their mind that soon they will be handed inheritances of all sorts. It may come as a surprise that this is more of a Hollywood scene than a reality. When someone passes away, it is highly likely that some or all of their estate will need to pass through probate, which can take months or even years to complete. Only once the probate process is over can named beneficiaries start to collect their inheritances and benefits.
The real trouble people encounter is just understanding the probate process in the first place. Unless a person holds a legal degree and works with probate cases regularly, it is unlikely they will have all the answers from the beginning.
Administrators & Probate Estates
The initial task of probate is determining who is the administrator, sometimes called the executor. Usually the decedent's will names the administrator but if it does not, the state chooses one based on close relation to the decedent. Once the administrator is identified, they are in charge of overseeing the estate, often with the help of a probate attorney.
An administrator should be concerned with what portion of the decedent's estate actually must go through probate. Items that were jointly-owned or controlled by a trust, for example, often sidestep probate. Most everything else, however, is included in a probate estate, so long as the total value of the estate is sizeable.
The Basic Probate Process
Completing probate may likely take several court dates spread across several months, but the process itself can be easily understood if broken down into five main steps.
- Validate the will: An often-brief review to ensure the will is not invalid or fraudulent. Uncommonly, this may trigger a relative to contest the will, which leads to probate litigation and further slows down the probate process.
- Collect inventory: Gathering up all pieces of the probate estate, whether they are deeds to land, automobiles, bank accounts, rights to business ownership, and so on. A large estate prompts a more-thorough collection and, thus, delays probate.
- Notification: In case distant relatives and creditors do not already know, the administrator will have the responsibility of telling them about the decedent's passing.
- Paying dues: If the decedent passed away owing money to the government through taxes or through certain creditors through debts, the estate's value is portioned out until all debts are paid or the estate's value is completely diminished.
- Distribution: After all debts are paid and all potential inheritors are identified, the final part of probate is distributing inheritances and assets as closely to the wording of the will as possible.
Friendly Assistance When You Need It
Probate can be intimidating if you begin it without a clear idea of the direction you need to go. Teaming up with our Naples probate attorney from the Law Office of Conrad Willkomm, P.A. can give you the peace of mind you need to complete the probate process with confidence, no matter how long it takes. Call 239.262.5303 to request your FREE initial consultation with our team to learn more.