During the probate process, there are steps which must be taken for purposes of winding up the estate. Most of those steps are taken by the executor of an estate, but heirs or beneficiaries should also be aware of what is involved with the probate process in order to make certain the right steps are actually being taken.
The Law Office of Michael Robinson, P.C. can provide guidance throughout the probate process. It is beneficial to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible after a death to get the ball rolling on probate as the process generally takes several months and even years. Heirs who are waiting to inherit typically want the probate process to begin quickly to move things forward, and the executor of an estate should also take prompt action so they can fulfill their role in making certain the wishes of the deceased are respected.
Our legal team provides personalized guidance with the steps necessary to probate a particular estate your friend or loved one left behind. We also have prepared a general probate checklist to consult. This checklist helps all interested parties understand how the probate process works.
The specifics of the probate process can vary depending upon the estate value, the designated beneficiaries, and a wide variety of other factors. However, some of the things that typically must be done during probate include:
- Getting proof of death: Death certificates will be needed to take many of the steps of probating an estate and managing a deceased persons’ assets. The executor of an estate must obtain certified certificates of death.
- Hiring a probate lawyer: The executor of an estate should hire a probate attorney so an experienced attorney can assist the executor of a will in fulfilling his responsibilities during the probate process.
- Gathering documents: Any wills, trusts, and other instructions should be collected. Check safety deposit boxes, talk with the deceased person’s estate planning lawyer, and make sure you have found all of the legal documents that were a part of the deceased person’s estate plan. You should also gather additional legal documents like leases the deceased was a party to; prenuptial agreements; titles and deeds for property; and anything else which could be relevant to the distribution of the deceased person’s assets.
- Listing the assets in the estate: An executor of a will needs to make a detailed inventory of estate assets. It is important to consider the estimated value of assets left behind by the deceased which are a part of the estate, as the total value of the estate will determine if estate tax will be charged or not.
- Collecting any estate assets which must be collected. If a deceased person is owed money, has set up life insurance to pay out to the estate, or otherwise has outstanding assets that must be collected, the executor of an estate needs to move forward with getting all of these assets together.
- Listing the financial obligations of the deceased: If debts are owed, they likely have to be paid by the estate. If the deceased person had outstanding obligations, those may need to be fulfilled.
- Notifying appropriate parties. An executor of an estate must notify family of the deceased, must notify potential beneficiaries or heirs, and must notify creditors about the death and about the probate process.
- Filing tax returns: The executor of an estate may need to file state and federal taxes. The executor of an estate may also need to obtain a tax ID for the estate from the Internal Revenue Service.
- Taking care of the property the deceased owned. This is the job of the executor of an estate until the property is transferred over to new owners. The executor of an estate must do things like pay bills and manage investments in order to make certain that the property of the deceased is protected until new owners can assume control over the property. The executor of an estate has a fiduciary duty and can be held legally accountable by beneficiaries or heirs for taking property for personal enrichment from the estate or for failing to fulfill estate management obligations.
- Professional valuations of the property: Appraisals may be necessary in certain circumstances, especially if the estate is a valuable one and there is the possibility that estate tax will be assessed on the estate assets. The executor of an estate will need to facilitate the appropriate processes for valuations of estate property to take place.
- Estate accounting. The executor of an estate has to keep financial records of transactions, including any money spent on things like mortgage bills or fulfilling financial obligations of the estate.
- Filing probate forms with the court and attending probate hearings. The executor of an estate is the person who is in charge of getting the ball rolling with the probate court and the executor of an estate must attend probate court hearings with the lawyer hired to manage the affairs of the estate. Beneficiaries or heirs should also attend probate proceedings in most cases so they ensure that there are no problems, like a will contest, which could affect their inheritance.
- Distribution of assets: At the close of probate proceedings, once the will has been declared valid and probated, the assets may finally be distributed to their new designated owners. Often, formally changing the title or deed of real property becomes necessary when the ownership of the deceased person’s assets officially changes hands.
This checklist is a good guide for those who are going through the probate process, but these steps are not necessarily the only ones that must be taken during probate. It is important to have a knowledgeable legal advocate who can provide personalized advice throughout the entirety of the probate process. Give us a call at (585) 546-1734 or contact us online to speak with a member of our legal team to learn more about the ways that a Rochester probate lawyer can help you throughout the probate process.