Understanding The Probate Process

Probate is a court-supervised proceeding whereby a will is authenticated and accepted as a valid document. Most wills go through probate. Once a will is recognized, an executor or administrator is appointed.

The estate administrator is responsible for administering the estate and distributing assets among the beneficiaries once the estate is dissolved. In case, a person dies intestate or without a will, the state decides how their property is distributed. If you don’t have a will or estate plan in order, consider getting in touch with a probate lawyer in Santa Rosa to help you secure your assets.

The Probate Process

Here are the steps involved in the probate process:

1. Filing

After the testator’s will is located, a petition is filed with the probate court requesting that the will enter probate and an executor be formally appointed to manage the deceased person’s estate. Sometimes, petitioners are required to file the testator’s death certificate along with the petition and will.

All beneficiaries and heirs must be informed that the petition has been filed. In some states, petitioners are required to publish a notice in this regard in local newspapers.

2. Authenticating the Last Will and Testament

To determine the authenticity of a will, probate courts rely on witnesses. All concerned are given an opportunity to challenge the will if they believe that it was drafted improperly. They are also able to challenge if they believe they are in possession of a more recent version of the will or if they feel the executor named in the will is not suitable for the job.

Many wills include self-proving affidavits. A self-proving affidavit is signed by the testator and witnesses when the will is written. Probate courts usually accept self-proving affidavits as evidence that a will is valid.

In the absence of self-proving affidavits, witnesses will be required to testify that they saw the will creator write the will and the document presented in the court is the one they saw the testator sign.

3. Appointing the Executor

The court appoints an executor to oversee the probate process. Executors get letters testamentary that allow them to act and enter into transactions on behalf of the estate.

4. Identifying the Decedent’s Assets

The executor locates and takes possession of all the decedent’s assets. They collect all the documents and statements concerning bank and investment accounts, stocks, and bonds. Once the executor collects the testator’s assets, they notify the creditors of the proceedings so they can file a claim against the estate.

5. Paying off the Decedent’s Debt

The executor pays the decedent’s debts using estate assets. They also file the final tax return on behalf of the estate and pay any due taxes. If there are not enough funds to satisfy creditor claims, the executor can sell the estate’s assets to obtain the funds needed to pay off debts.

6. Distributing the Assets

Once creditor claims have been satisfied, the executor distributes the remaining assets among the beneficiaries named in the will or according to state intestacy statutes if there is no will.

Johnston & Associates Law is a trusted law firm serving Northern California. Our team consists of seasoned probate lawyers in Santa Rosa. Whatever your legal problem, we can help. To learn more, call (707) 545-6542.