When a loved one dies, there are a lot of things that you have to handle. The most immediate for many people is setting up the person’s final arrangements. This entails planning the funeral and getting the burial or cremation taken care of. You also have to think about handling the estate. This is done through the probate process.
The purpose of probate is to distribute assets to heirs. It is also meant to pay for bills owed if there are sufficient assets in the estate to do this. The estate administrator is the person who handles these duties.
What governs the estate process?
If the person had a valid estate plan, the estate is handled according to it. If they did not have a valid estate plan, intestate laws, which are set by the state, govern the process. The probate court is the entity that oversees these cases and makes decisions when there are things that aren’t clear or if there are questions about what should happen.
How long does probate last?
The probate process lasts an average of a year. This can vary greatly depending on the size of the estate and whether there are complex elements. Larger estates and ones that have complicated elements are going to take longer to work through than ones that are small and simple.
What are the basic tasks handled during probate?
The executor will handle the tasks of the estate, which include:
- preparing and paying the final tax return
- notifying Social Security of the death if the person was receiving benefits
- notifying any heirs, beneficiaries and creditors
- locating the assets of the estate
Any assets included in the estate should be secured to protect them against theft and damage. You should do this as quickly as possible and ask family members to avoid taking anything until you’ve had a chance to inventory everything.
While the probate process is moving forward, the executor will have to pay bills. There are certain ones that can be paid while the case is ongoing, but others will have to wait until the conclusion of probate. Things like utility bills and mortgage payments are payable while the case is in process. Tax bills and medical bills aren’t paid until probate is over, and they must be handled in a specific order.
You should discuss the ins and outs of probate with an attorney who is familiar with the process. This can ensure that you are handling things in the proper manner.