Someone close to you has died… now what?

Posted by on Aug 9, 2011 in Articles, Trusts and Estates | Comments Off on Someone close to you has died… now what?

In addition to the emotional impact of a death, there is always the problem of winding up the deceased’s financial affairs. Where to go? Who to talk to?

Probate is the legal process by which a deceased’s estate is administered. The estate will need to be probated unless is falls under an exception. The primary exceptions are where the estate is very small (less than $100,000) or composed of non-probate assets (such as a trust or property held in joint tenancy with rights of survivorship).

Any person may start the probate proceedings, but usually it is the person named in the deceased’s will as “personal representative” that takes charge. The personal representative is the individual responsible for seeing that the probate is done properly. You may also hear this person referred to as “executor of the estate.”

The first step in the probate process is to file a Petition for Order Probating Will with the court. The petition is usually filed in the county of the deceased’s residence. The petition should set forth the basic facts about the decedent (date of death, place of residency, etc.) and be accompanied by the will and any amendments thereto (called “codicils”). This filing is called “admitting the will to probate.” It may also be referred to as “opening the probate.”

If the decedent died without a will, a petition must still be filed. In this case, the petition should set forth the basic facts and (in lieu of the will) be accompanied by a statement that the decedent died “intestate.” The petition should also identify the person seeking appointment as the administrator.

After the petition has been filed, the person seeking appointment as the personal representative must take an oath before the court will issue a document formally approving the appointment of the personal representative (called “Letters Testamentary” if there is a will and “Letters of Administration” if there is no will). The personal representative will also need to post a bond unless the will indicates that the personal representative may serve without a bond.

Upon appointment, the personal representative should create an inventory of the deceased’s assets and liabilities and consolidate all of the deceased’s liquid assets in a trust account. The personal representative should also open a checking account for the estate.

The personal representative will then need to send out notices of the death and pending probate to all heirs, other persons identified in the will and all known creditors and begin the process of paying the creditors and distributing the assets of the estate.

It usually takes 9-24 months for an efficient personal representative to wind up an estate. If the personal representative has difficulty navigating the process or the estate is quite complex, the probate can take even longer.

Dealing with a death is hard enough without getting lost in a pile of paperwork and rules. Many people therefore elect to hire an attorney to get them through the probate process.

We can provide the legal help you need to get through the probate process. Call (425) 248-2163 to speak with one of our experienced probate attorneys about your unique situation.

Please continue to visit our website as we add additional information about the basics of estate planning and probate as well as practical tips and news on current trends.

The following articles are published for informational purposes and not for the purposes of providing legal advice. Please contact Galvin Realty Law Group at 425.248.2163 for a consultation about your specific needs and circumstances.