What is probate? When a loved one passes away, their property or estate must be distributed among their heirs and beneficiaries (or handled in some other way). The person responsible for overseeing this process is typically named in a will as the executor or personal representative. Dealing with probate can be overwhelming. You’re grieving the loss of a loved one while, at the same time, having to make legal and financial decisions. It can be difficult to know where to begin or how to manage all of these responsibilities.  To make things a little easier, here are six tips for navigating the probate process and settling an estate—plus how a cash buyer may be able to help.

Where Do I File a Petition to Begin the Probate Process?

You will file a petition at the probate court in the county where your loved one lived. It asks for you to be officially acknowledged as the legal executor representing the estate. In addition, you will file the original will, if there is one, and the death certificate.  The probate court will then schedule a hearing to approve you as the executor or hear objections if there are any. Once you’re approved and the probate case is open, you can officially act on behalf of the estate.

Who Do I Give Notice to During the Probate Process?

You’ll need to notify any creditors, beneficiaries, and heirs that the estate is now in probate. This may include a published obituary in the local newspaper as well as mailings to interested parties. Check the laws in the state where the probate case was opened to determine how you’re supposed to notify people who have an interest in the estate and the amount of time they have to potentially file a claim against it. 

What Assets Do I Inventory in the Probate Process?

Examples of assets that are subject to probate include bank accounts, retirement accounts, stock and bonds, real estate, and personal belongings like art collections, jewelry, etc. You’ll have to make a list of everything your loved one owned and file it with the court. If you are able to consolidate the estate funds as much as possible, you will be able to streamline the process of paying bills and bequests by having everything in one, separate checking account. That’s something your attorney can set up or you can do on your own.

How Do I Handle Bills and Debts in the Probate Process?

If there’s any money owed to the estate (like rent or outstanding paychecks), collect those funds. You should make a list of all your loved one’s liabilities, such as utility bills, mortgage payments, taxes, storage fees, etc. Gathering this information may take some time and require some detective work. Before you start paying any debt, you need to make sure the estate has enough money to cover the expenses, or else the state will have to prioritize which creditors get paid first. If you use any of your own money to pay expenses, keep thorough records because you may be able to use estate assets for reimbursement. You will also need to file a final income tax return (if applicable). 

How Do I Distribute Remaining Assets in the Probate Process?

Once all debts and expenses are paid and claims against the estate are finalized, you can distribute the remaining property as the will directs.  However, you may want to keep a reserve for closing costs and unexpected claims. Creditors may be able to make claims against the estate up to a year after your loved one’s date of death. If there is no will, check the state’s intestate succession statute. In general, priority is granted to the surviving spouse, then children, grandchildren, and so on. 

When Can I Close the Estate and End the Probate Process?

To finalize the probate process, you need to file a detailed account with the probate court that includes receipts and records of everything that was filed, paid, and distributed.  Next, you ask to close the estate and be released as executor. After the court approves your request, you can disperse any remaining reserve funds. Then, you’re done.

6 Tips for Starting Probate and Settling an Estate

Now you know much more about what the probate process entails and what you need to get done as you work on settling an estate that belonged to a loved one. The six steps are:
  1. File a petition at the probate court
  2. Give notice to creditors, beneficiaries, and heirs 
  3. Take inventory of assets worthy of probate
  4. Make a list of all bills and debts, then pay them
  5. Distribute remaining assets via will or intestate
  6. Close the estate and reserve account
There is a lot of work involved in the probate process, and you may be looking around for assistance.  If you’ve inherited a house you don’t want to keep, New Again Houses® will give you a fair cash offer to take the home off your hands and help with the probate process. You don’t even have to go through the contents if the task is too overwhelming. Reach out today and we’ll see what we can do to help.

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