Probate is the process by which a court determines the authenticity of a decedent’s last will and testament. The executor’s job is to carry out the decedent’s wishes as set forth in the will. While probate sounds like a simple process, it almost never is. Even in the best of circumstances, there are procedures that must be followed strictly, and the probate process can take anywhere from months to years. Creating a good will can help shorten the probate process; however, even with a will, there are elements outside your control.
The executor must complete the following steps as part of the probate process:
- making an inventory of all the decedent’s assets (this can be a difficult task if good records were not kept);
- holding the assets while the estate is administered;
- selling and/or liquidating assets for distribution or payment of taxes;
- paying all valid debts of the estate;
- notifying all beneficiaries of their inheritance;
- preparing tax returns and paying taxes; and
- distributing the estate assets as directed in the will.
The probate process can be further complicated if beneficiaries cannot be located or if a beneficiary contests the will. Going through all of these steps on your own can be difficult. An experienced estate law attorney can guide you through the probate process by helping you file the appropriate court documents and protecting the inheritance of beneficiaries.