Probate is a process whereby the court supervises the transfer of assets from a person who has passed away to the new lawful owners. But first, the court must make sure that all of the decedent’s taxes and debts are paid.
Probate is generally a long, frustrating and expensive process. Much of our practice is devoted to using trusts and other planning tools to help our clients avoid probate altogether. However, for families who did not do probate avoidance planning, we are frequently hired to guide them through the probate process.
While every probate is unique, here is a list of what is involved in a “typical” probate:
• Locate and file the decedent’s Will (if he or she had one) with the local court
• File necessary probate documents with the court
• Locate, inventory, custody, close and transfer personal assets and accounts
• Appraise and determine the value of all assets
• Ascertain, and then notify, all known creditors of the estate
• Make payments to creditors, discharge the decedent’s obligations and obtain creditor releases
• Process and obtain life insurance death benefits, if any
• Secure the decedent’s residence and tangible personal property
• File tax returns and make appropriate tax elections
• Pay estate taxes and final personal income taxes, if any
• Obtain tax releases and closing letters from the IRS, local courts and state taxing authorities
• Make specific bequests, together with partial and final distributions, to beneficiaries.
• Provide detailed accounting to beneficiaries and the local court