The 4 Steps of the Probate Process

The 4 Steps of the Probate Process

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

For a free initial consultation with Owenby Law, P.A., please call our office at (904) 770-3141.


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