How to Probate a Will

When a family member passes away, the relatives left behind often find themselves with a long “to-do” list of tasks. In addition to planning a memorial and taking care of other personal needs, these loved ones must also honor the deceased person’s will.

Probate is the process of giving legal recognition to the will and ensuring that the instructions in it are carried out properly. While it is possible to probate a will without the help of an attorney, working with an experienced probate lawyer can help simplify the process and prepare you for potential obstacles, such as tax bills.

Generally speaking, most wills are probated according to the following steps:

  1. The executor files a petition with the probate court. This petition begins the probate process.

  2. The court formally recognizes the executor. If the executor named in the will cannot serve or does not wish to do so, the court will appoint another executor.

  3. The court determines whether the will is valid. Every state has specific rules for the making of wills. The probate court will check the will to make sure those rules were followed.

  4. The executor accounts for all the assets and debts in the estate. From real estate to jewelry, cash to bonds, the executor tracks down all the assets and debts in the estate and makes a list. If certain items need to be appraised, the executor finds a qualified appraiser to do so.

  5. The executor informs the court when the accounting is complete. The probate court then authorizes the executor to pay the estate’s debts and taxes and to distribute everything left over to the inheritors.

  6. The executor carries out the instructions in the will, then “closes” the estate by filing a final accounting with the court.

The probate process may take anywhere from a few months to several years. Factors that can extend probate include the complexity of the estate, difficulties understanding the will, or challenges to the will brought by inheritors or creditors.

Do you need insight into how to handle the probate process? Gudorf Law Group can help prevent problems, minimize tax consequences and honor your loved one’s wishes. Call us now at 1-937-898-5583 for a private consultation about your rights and options.