Settling an Estate

When a person passes away, their possessions and assets are sometimes legally required to go through a process known as probate. This is a court-supervised process that involves gathering information on the deceased person’s debts, assets, and taxes, paying their outstanding bills and distributing their property to any living relatives or named heirs. Although the process can be long and involved, it is usually simple with very little court supervision.

Take a look at the Probate Process

Beginning Probate

The first step in the probate process is initiating the case with the local court. You must file a petition in which you state that the decedent passed away and there was or was not a will. The next step is to ask the court to name a personal representative to handle the affairs of the estate. All of this requires a death certificate, paying a filing fee, and gathering information regarding the heirs of the estate.

The Court Hearing

To decide whether or not to grant your request, the judge will read over your petition and supporting papers and hold a hearing. Notice must be sent to all interested parties, including creditors. The hearing is essentially an opportunity for people to formally object to the appointment of the proposed representative. This is largely a formality, and many probate lawyers do not have their clients attend.

Estate Management

Once the court has appointed someone as a representative, it will issue Letters that give that person the authority to act on behalf of the estate. He or she will be able to sell assets, pay debts and will be in charge of distributing any leftover money to the heirs if allowed. However, a representative must provide the court with a detailed accounting of all work to ensure there has not been any abuse.

Closing The Estate

Once the creditors have all been paid, the tax returns have been filed, and all disputes have been settled, the appointed estate representative is now authorized to distribute any leftover funds to the heirs. This is done by formally petitioning the court to allow the representative to distribute the money, provide accounting, and close the estate. This releases the representative from his/her duties as the representative, and brings a formal end to the probate process.