Probate Court: Understanding How Your Affairs Are Sorted After

By on April 28, 2020
Probate Court

Have you taken the necessary steps to prepare your estate for your family? Believe it or not, many women 50 and older haven’t. While there are many reasons for this, there seems to be a common misconception that when you die, everything you own goes to your children, spouse, or next of kin. This, however, may not be true depending on where you live. In many cases, your family will have to go to probate court to figure it all out. 

Fortunately, there is the option to hire a probate attorney San Diego firm (or a firm in the state you resided) to assist in this complex and time-consuming process. 

What is Probate Court? 

Probate court is a process in which the local government authenticates the last will and testament of the deceased. It is during these legal proceedings that assets are identified and valued, final taxes and bills are paid, and the remaining estate is divided among beneficiaries. Depending on where you live, going through the probate process is required whether there is a will prepared or not. 

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How Does the Probate Process Work?

While there are steps that can be taken to avoid probate court altogether, there are instances in which this court-supervised process isn’t avoidable. Below is a brief look at how the process works:  

  • File Will and Death Certificate – The last will and testament and death certificate need to be filed along with the probate court and a petition to open probate of the estate. If you have not prepared a will, your family members will still need to file an application or petition. 
  • Authentification of the Will – A court date is set to allow all interested parties an opportunity to contest the validity of the will or the appointed executor of the estate. To determine the validity of the will, the courts will rely on witness information. Witnesses are individuals who were present during the drafting and/or signing of the will. 

 

  • Appoint an Executor – The judge will appoint an executor (based on requests provided in the will and probate laws). This is the person who will be responsible for monitoring the probate process and sorting your estate. 

 

 

  • Posting Bond – Depending on where you live and what has been stated in the last will and testament, the executor of the estate may be required to post a bond before they can carry out their legal obligations to the estate. A bond is essentially insurance that provides protection for the estate in the event that the executor does something (intentional or unintentional) to cause financial strain on the estate and its beneficiaries. 

 

 

  • Identify Assets – The executor must locate and identify all assets belonging to the deceased. It is their responsibility to protect and/or take possession of all assets until the probate process is complete. A will or estate plan can make it easier for the executor to locate the assets. 

 

 

  • Value Assets – Once all assets have been acquired the executor must have each item valued. This can be done by viewing statements or having items appraised. Depending on the state you filed a petition in, the executor may be required to submit a detailed list of assets and the after death value. 

 

 

  • Notifying and Paying Creditors – All creditors of the deceased must be notified of the death to provide them with an opportunity to file a claim against the estate for outstanding debt. The executor must pay all valid claims using estate funds. 

 

 

  • Filing Tax Returns – The executor is also responsible for filing the decedent’s personal income taxes for the year they died along with estate taxes, if applicable. Any owed taxes are paid using funds from the estate. 

 

 

  • Distributing the Estate – After all valid bills and taxes have been paid, the executor can then petition the court for permission to distribute what is left of the estate to the rightful beneficiaries. 

 

Death is not a topic anyone likes to dwell on for too long. Thinking about life after you’ve passed away can be pretty morbid, but at some point, it’s necessary. This is especially true when you have adult children and grandchildren. The reality is, you never know when your time will come. When it does, you want to make sure that your children are well taken care of. Understanding how your affairs are sorted out during the probate process can help you take the necessary steps to make this process as easy as you can for your grieving loved ones.

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Probate Court: Understanding How Your Affairs Are Sorted After