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What happens during probate?

On Behalf of | May 1, 2024 | Estate Planning |

There is more to probate than just distributing assets to the will beneficiaries. It’s a legal process that involves several key steps. Understanding what happens during probate can help make things easier for everyone involved in the process, whether you are an executor or heir.

Probate formally begins with filing a petition with the court. Usually, this is done by the executor named in the will. All interested parties, like creditors and beneficiaries, must be notified of probate proceedings before they begin. Here’s what happens next once the court validates the will.

Asset inventory and appraisal

The executor is responsible for locating the deceased person’s assets and appraising them. This includes real estate, personal property, investments and any other assets. Asset inventory and appraisal provide a clear picture of the estate’s value for tax purposes and ensure that all assets are accounted for and properly distributed.

Paying debts and taxes

If the deceased has outstanding debts and taxes, they must be settled before the estate can be distributed to the beneficiaries. Some of these financial obligations may include pending bills, mortgage loans and taxes owed. The executor will use the estate’s assets to pay off these debts.

Asset distribution

Once the outstanding dues have been settled, the remaining assets can be distributed to the beneficiaries according to instructions in the will. The executor is responsible for ensuring that assets are distributed correctly and that all beneficiaries receive their fair share. If there is no will, state law will determine how the assets will be distributed. 

Final accounting

After distributing the estate assets, the executor must file a final accounting with the court detailing all financial transactions of the estate. The estate can be closed once the court approves the accounting.

Probate can be complex and time-consuming, necessitating qualified legal guidance when navigating this crucial process. The proper assistance can help you avoid mistakes that can put your inheritance at risk and protect your interests.