You have probably heard many things that indicate that probate is a long and complicated process. In fact, you may have even taken certain steps in your own estate plan to try to avoid probate as much as possible. However, if you are facing probate after the death of a loved one, you might be wondering what you can expect.
In general, probate involves the court overseeing the authentication of a decedent's last will and testament. This process usually involves a representative tracking down the decedent's assets, paying any final bills and even filing the last tax return. In addition, the probate court will supervise the process of distributing the estate to all rightful heirs and beneficiaries. While the probate process does vary slightly from state to state, the following includes the general steps you might experience in North Canton.
The first step in the probate process is the authentication of the will. The presiding judge will determine if the will in the probate court's possession is the most recent and valid one in existence.
Appointment of a personal representative
If the decedent did not name an executor or personal representative for his or her estate, then the judge will select someone to act in this capacity. If there is no will, the court might appoint the decedent's next of kin.
The location of assets
The next step in the process is the location of the decedent's assets. The executor or personal representative will find and protect the assets until the time comes to distribute them to the heirs and beneficiaries.
Using account statements and possibly even professional appraisers, the executor will figure out the value of the decedent's assets at the date of death.
Identification of creditors and paying final bills
Another duty of the personal representative is to identify the decedent's creditors and to inform them of the death. In addition, it might also be necessary to print a public notification for any creditors that remain unknown. If a creditor is going to make a claim against the estate for any outstanding debt, there is typically only a limited amount of time to do so. Also, the executor must pay or reject any final bills and claims.
Tax return filing
The duty of ensuring the preparation and filing of the decedent's final personal income tax returns and the estate tax returns also falls to the executor or personal representative. This also includes paying any taxes due from the estate.
Distribution to the beneficiaries
The last duty the executor has to perform is distributing the estate's assets to the named heirs and beneficiaries. However, before doing this, the representative has to petition the probate court for permission.
While the probate process is often very complicated, the above provides a general outline of what you can expect. Unfortunately, if there are problems with the will or other aspects of the process, you could wind up in probate litigation if you are the executor or a rightful heir to the decedent's property.