24th July 2020
When a loved one passes, it’s already a difficult enough time without added stress. On top of that, it can be a challenging process taking on the complicated duties of administering the estate, but that’s exactly what the executor of a Will and an estate has to do.
This is called the probate process, and it involves calling in assets, paying off any remaining debts, and paying any applicable inheritance taxes. All of that comes before distributing the estate according to the Will of the deceased or, worse, dealing with the rules of intestacy if the deceased died without leaving a Will.
Most of the time, a probate lawyer is best equipped to help an executor through this process, but before going to that step, it’s important to understand the process first. The exact steps and details may vary according to the Will and other factors, but what follows is a basic summation of the process.
Apply for a Grant of Probate
The person designated as the executor of the Will must file for a Grant of Probate with the probate court. This is the process of asking for legal recognition of executor status and permission to represent and administer the estate.
Additionally, the executor has to file the Will and a death certificate with the court along with any other documents the jurisdiction may require. The court will then hold a hearing to approve the executor. This is also the stage where the court will hear any objections from other parties regarding the executor.
If the deceased did not leave a will, the court will decide how to administer the estate, or a relative of the deceased, commonly the next of kin, may petition to become the executor.
Give Notice and Take Inventory of Assets
Assuming the executor is approved and obtaining the Grant of Probate succeeds, it is now time to notify all creditors, beneficiaries, and heirs that the estate is in probate. The exact means of doing this may vary by local laws.
At the same time begins inventorying all assets and appraising their values. This includes but is not limited to financial accounts (bank, retirement, etc.), stocks and bonds, real estate holdings, and valuable personal items (art collections, automobiles, and jewelry are some examples).
Take Care of Remaining Bills and Debts
Before distributing assets to beneficiaries and heirs, it is necessary to close out any outstanding debts. This can be a time-consuming process because it often requires extensive scrutiny of records, accounts, and the like.
Likewise, the executor has to pay all applicable income and inheritance taxes.
To pay these debts, the executor will use the estate’s assets. In the event that the estate cannot cover all debts, the court will have to take over and prioritize the remaining claims against the estate.
This works the other way as well. If there is money owed to the estate, such as through paychecks, rent owed by tenants, and other forms of owed compensation or remuneration, the executor sees that those obligations are met.
If there are disputes between creditors and the estate, it’s best for the executor to seek representation by a probate lawyer immediately if he or she has not already done so.
Establishing an estate account to pay bills and other expenses makes this part of the process easier to manage.
Distribute the Rest of the Estate
Now that all debts have been covered, it is time to distribute the remaining assets according to the instructions in the Will. This is the stage where there might be disputes between the executor and beneficiaries, and this possibility is another persuasive argument for hiring a probate lawyer to help steer the executor through what can be a protracted, complicated, and occasionally bitter process.
Finally, Close the Estate
With all debts paid and assets distributed, the executor submits all records and receipts to the court and petitions for the estate to be closed. Once the court grants that, the executor is released from that role.
Probate Service by Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors
By now, you likely appreciate that the task of being the executor of an estate and managing the probate process is a daunting one even when everything goes smoothly. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all this on top of the stress surrounding the deceased’s passing. When there are disputes or when the Will is unusually complicated, things can get even more difficult to sort out.
Sometimes an executor desperately needs help. Sometimes an executor really prefers not to manage this process at all and would rather entrust it to a skilled professional solicitor.
Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors personalises its probate services according to every particular circumstance, and our lawyers are experts in managing and walking you through every step of the process.
Because we know this is a challenging time and a difficult process, we’ll work at a pace comfortable for you. Because we have spent more than a decade specializing in just such affairs, we work tirelessly to make this process as easy as possible on you while being efficient and effective in closing the estate. And because we know that circumstances can change rapidly, we provide the flexibility you need to handle all legal proceedings surrounding the passing of a loved one.
Let us help you manage your responsibility as executor and get you and your loved ones the closure they need. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, contact us, and let us help you move forward and ensure that your loved one’s estate is wound up properly.