After the death of a loved one, the last will of the deceased must be promptly filed with the probate court. Contact the probate court to find out how many days you have to file the will.Do not assume you can legally act as the executor of the decedentís estate simply because you are named executor in the decedentís will. You may need to be approved or qualified for appointment by the probate court before you are authorized to administer an estate.
If you are the executor of the deceased personís estate, contact a probate lawyer immediately for information about your duties and the probate process. Even if you ultimately decide not to hire an attorney, contact a probate attorney for preliminary information about what is involved, your options, and important problems you may encounter in the probate of an estate. The probate court staff cannot provide legal advice, assist in the preparation of probate court forms, or help with transferring title to assets of the deceased. In some states you must be represented by an attorney to probate an estate.Find out the deadlines that apply in your state to the probate of an estate. If you are the executor, it is critical you meet all deadlines and probate the estate in accordance with applicable laws.
If the decedent had a living trust, do not assume that no portion of the decedentís estate is subject to probate. It is common for people to execute a living trust and then fail to fund the trust properly by transferring title to all their property to the living trust. Examine how title to each asset in the estate is held. If any asset is titled in the name of the deceased rather than the name of the living trust, it may be subject to probate.If the deceased owned property in more than one state, consult a probate lawyer regarding whether you need to go through probate in all states where the decedent owned property.Do not assume the decedentís estate is so small that it is exempt from probate or that all the deceasedís property automatically passes to his surviving spouse without probate. For example, if the deceased owned real estate titled in his name alone, a probate proceeding may be required, regardless of the value of the real property, depending on the state. Consult a probate attorney for information about whether any portion of the estate is subject to probate under applicable state laws.The personal representative of the estate must use diligent efforts to notify all creditors of the decedentís estate about the probate proceeding. Also, the personal representative must ensure that legitimate creditor claims, taxes, and expenses of the decedentís estate are paid before distributions are made to the deceasedís beneficiaries.
Forms Needed to Probate an Estate
Every estate is unique. If the estate you are administering is subject to probate, the types of forms required will depend on the specific property in the estate, the heirs or devisees to the estate, the applicable state laws, and the rules of the local probate court. Probate courts usually provide some probate forms for settling an estate free of charge as a public service. Other documents used to probate an estate must be drafted by an attorney.The following is a list of the types of forms that may be required to probate an estate:
The above list of probate forms is not an exhaustive list of the types of forms used to probate an estate. The names of the forms vary from state to state. If you are involved in the probate of a decedentís estate, contact the probate court with jurisdiction over the estate for information on the forms that should be used and consult a probate attorney for assistance with probate procedures in your state. You will also need to obtain several certified copies of the death certificate.
Filing an Inventory of Estate
The personal representative must file an inventory and accounting of the decedentís estate with the probate court. See for executors. Detailed supporting documentation such as cancelled checks, invoices, receipts, bank statements, and other financial records may also have to be filed with the probate court.Many free forms for the probate of an estate are available from your local probate court. Visit the probate courtís website for information about what forms are available online. You can also visit the probate court in person for more information.
Legal Terms Used in the Probate Process
If you are involved in the probate of an estate, you may have to complete a variety of probate court forms which use legal terminology. Refer to our Glossary of Estate Planning, Trust, and Probate Terms for the meaning of terms used in probate and estate administration.