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What Are the 4 Steps to Probate?

Demystifying the Four Steps to Probate

If you are dealing with settling an estate, it is imperative that you familiarize yourself with probate. This is the legal process involved in distributing a deceased’s assets. In many cases, the executor of the will is in charge of handling probate. Where there is no will, the probate court determines how to distribute assets. Here are the five main steps to probate.

File a Petition

The first step in a probate is to file a petition in the area where the deceased resided when they died. A petition is simply a request to be acknowledged as the legitimate executor of the deceased’s estate. Before you are approved as the executor, you need to notify the main stakeholders that the estate is in probate. A notice should be issued to all heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors. In some states, executors are required to publish this notification in the newspaper. According to NY state estate law, the court will ask for a hearing where it will approve the executor or hear any challenges to your request. If your petition is approved, the court will issue Letters Testamentary and you will have the power to execute the deceased’s wishes with regards to their estate.

Take an Inventory of the Deceased’s Assets

As the representative of the deceased’s estate, you need to make an inventory of all their assets and present them before the court. These assets include:

  • Stocks and bonds
  • Bank accounts
  • Real estate
  • Retirement accounts
  • Personal effects like valuable art collections

Handle Bills and Debts

An important part of being an executor is collecting and settling debts. Meyer & Spencer PC will advise you to review check books, bank accounts, emails, and other documentation when determining debts and bills. The state usually prioritizes on creditor claims in case the deceased had insufficient assets. You are also required to pay all taxes.

Distribution of Assets

After all debts, claims, and expenses have been settled, you will distribute the remaining assets according to the directions in the will. After distributing all assets, you are required to submit records and receipts of everything to court and ask that the estate be closed. It is at this point that you will be released from your duty as executor.

The probate process is quite complex and daunting. For help filing a petition, gathering information about the deceased’s estate, and dealing with creditors, it is advisable to consult an estates lawyer. With a legal expert by your side, you are likely to finalize probate quickly and without any hurdles.

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