Put Family First
Take time to fully grieve the death of your loved one. The probate process can wait. Take the time to connect or re-connect with family members. If you are the executor, ask your family if they understand that you need to grieve a bit before starting the process. There may be a family member who really needs an inheritance that could be coming. Possibly you or someone else could lend them enough to tide them over until the process has finished. Communicating is the key to keeping the rest of your family intact.
Look for Paperwork to Locate the Will
After the funeral, if you haven’t already done so, you will need to search for a copy of the will. Hopefully, your loved one has one as it will make the process easier. A person who dies leaving a valid will is legally known as “testate,” while a person who does not create a valid will is known as “intestate.” The will designates the executor of the estate. Without a will, the next of kin will be appointed.
It is important to note that access to accounts and transactions of the property will be limited to information only. This is in effect until the executor or administrator is designated by the court.
You may want to have the decedent’s mail forwarded by the US Postal Service for collection and organization by the executor. Monthly statements received will help identify the financial assets and liabilities of the estate. Cash and personal property of the decedent should be safeguarded for now. Begin keeping a journal and inventorying valuables.
Find Property Titles
If the deceased owned property having the title in hand will make the executor’s job easier. If you cannot find the paperwork call our office. We can help you locate the deed. Even though the property cannot be sold yet this may be a good time to contact realtors in your area who may be able to help when the time comes.
Once you have the death certificate you will be able to move forward with the probate process. This is a formal process and the advice of a probate attorney is recommended. Each estate is unique and there is a host of moving parts that will need to be addressed.
Petition For Probate
The petition for probate is normally filed in the probate court within the county in which the decedent resided. Now the process has begun. Once filed it will be about 30 to 45 days before the hearing. This is to allow time for all persons, including creditors who have an interest in the estate to be notified.
While this process does not need to be presided over by the courts it is the responsibility of the executor to distribute items among family members or close friends. The remainder may be sold at an auction or estate sales. The proceeds will be divided evenly among the heirs.
Being the Executor
The executor of the estate is a fiduciary obligation that requires diligence, responsibility, and accountability. The person with this task should keep good records and act in a timely fashion. Many a family strife has happened due to poor accounting and unnecessary delays. And a well-meaning executor can be held personally liable for errors or omissions in administering an estate. Therefore, a responsible executor will seek the advice and assistance of qualified professionals.
Contact the Hilbun Law Firm for help with probate. 281-955-9292