The process of administering a decedent’s estate is known as
probate. During this process, the decedent’s debts are settled, and any
property in their name that is not distributed by law is transferred to
heirs and other beneficiaries. If the decedent had a will, the process
begins when the designated executor presents the will in court. If the
decedent did not have a will, an individual must ask the court to appoint
him or her as the legal representative of the estate.
While many fear that this process is complicated and daunting, it can actually
be broken down into four relatively simple steps:
File a petition and give notice to beneficiaries and heirs. Typically, notice of a probate court hearing regarding the filing of
the petition must be provided to all of the beneficiaries and heirs of
the decedent. The beneficiary or heir will have a chance to object to
the petition, if they wish. Furthermore, a notice of the hearing should
be published in a local newspaper in order to notify unknown creditors
and others of the beginning of proceedings.
After the court appointment, the executor must give notice to all creditors
of the estate and inventory all estate property. Based on state law, the representative of the estate must provide appropriate
notice so that any creditor who wishes to make a claim can do so (within
a limited time period). Then, the executor must complete a thorough inventory
of all real property, business interests, stocks, bonds, and all other
assets. Independent appraisers are hired in some cases to appraise non-cash
assets when necessary.
All funeral and estate expenses, as well as taxes and debts, must be paid
from the estate. The estate representative must determine which claims from creditors
are legitimate and pay all outstanding debts and bills with funds from
the estate. The representative may be permitted to sell assets to meet
these obligations, if necessary.
Legal title in property is transferred. Lastly, property must be transferred either according to the stipulations
of the will or by the laws of Intestacy if there was no will. The representative
must petition before the court for the authority to transfer the remaining
assets. Once granted, the representative may then transfer stock, draw
up new property deeds, liquidate assets, etc.
A properly drafted and regularly updated will can greatly simplify this
process and make it easier for your family to carry out your wishes after
you are gone. If you have not yet made your will, we invite you to contact
a Jacksonville elder law attorney at Owenby Law, P.A. A member of our
knowledgeable and caring staff can guide you through the process so that
you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing your family will
be taken care of after your passing.
free initial consultation with Owenby Law,
P.A., please call our office at (904) 770-3141.