The first step in the process is to file a petition for probate of a will if you have a will or to file a petition for administration of an estate without a will. You will need to obtain a certified copy of the death certificate and determine the heirs of the decedent. You will need to identify each and every potential heir such as the spouse, parents and siblings and provide their mailing addresses. Once you have this basic information you will need to identify the approximate value of the estate including any and all real estate, personal property, retirement plans, savings accounts, checking accounts etc… You will also need to identify and determine the amount of all debts such as mortgage amounts, car loans, credit card debts, etc… You will need to inform the court to the best of your knowledge the gross value of the estate, the amount of debts and an overall net value. Sometimes this can be difficult if you are unable to locate all of the required information and you may need the assistance of an attorney to help you determine what steps you should take. Once you have all of the required information you will file a Petition for Probate.
The second step is to publish notice in a newspaper of general circulation and to send notice to all known creditors and heirs/beneficiaries. If any of these beneficiaries resided in another country additional steps must be taken. (See Beneficiaries Residing in Another Country Blog) Once these notices have been provided you are ready to request that the court appoint you as the executor or personal representative and post any bond required by the court. If the court appoints you then you will be in a position to begin the administration process.
The third step in the administration process which requires you to marshal all assets of the estate and to pay all creditors who have timely filed a legitimate Creditors Claim. (See Creditors Claim Blog) If there is a will it is likely that certain specified assets will be distributed to named beneficiaries and it will be your responsibility to ensure that those specific bequests are provided as specified in the will. If there isn’t a will then you will likely be valuing the estate for distribution to the identified beneficiaries in an equal amount. Accordingly, you may need to sell real property and/or personal property and provide an equal monetary distribution to each of the heirs if an agreement on an in kind distribution cannot be obtained.
The final step in the administration process is to file a petition with the probate court requesting that the court approve your administration of the estate and authorize the requested distribution amounts that you have identified as the proper amounts. At this time, you will also be requesting that the court authorize you to pay yourself and your attorney the statutory fee amount and any extraordinary fees. (See Statutory Fee & Extraordinary Fees Blog).
If you need legal assistance with any probate matter, we would be glad to provide you with experienced legal counsel. Contact Walker Law Corporation for a free telephone consultation.