When a person passes away, their estate has to pass through probate before property can be distributed to the family. The probate court has a strict process it follows, and anyone with an estate can do their family a great service by making sure that all of their paperwork is in place prior to their passing to make the probate process smoother.
If you want to prepare for estate probate, then you need to understand the different elements of the probate process. It is a legal process that should be navigated by an experienced attorney, but it always helps when the family understands that process and does what it can to be prepared.
The first step of any estate probate process is to verify that the deceased's will is genuine. In most cases, this is a routine process that does not take a great deal of time. But if someone decides to contest the will, then this can significantly slow down the probate process. The probate process cannot continue until the will is verified.
A part of the estate probate process that gets taken for granted is doing an official inventory of the deceased party's belongings. Each probate court has its own rules and procedures for inventorying estate property, but it helps if there is a preliminary inventory the court can use as a guide. With the inventory, the court can establish the value of the estate and use that number in such calculations as inheritance and estate taxes.
Believe it or not, one of the more dramatic parts of the estate probate process is appraising the deceased's real estate and valuables. This is the part of the process where the family finds out that the family heirloom that was thought to be worth thousands of dollars is actually worthless. The appraisal process usually happens immediately after the inventory is complete, or goes hand-in-hand with the inventory to help speed the process up a little.
During probate is when the assets of the estate are used to satisfy debts and pay taxes. If the deceased has a large mortgage that is still outstanding, then the home may have to be sold to pay that mortgage if the estate does not have the funds to take care of it. This part of the probate process can be difficult for the family, and it can also get complicated. It helps to have a competent attorney as the administrator of the estate to help this part of the process go smoothly.
Most people consider an estate to have passed through probate when the remaining property gets distributed to people inside and outside of the family. If the will has been verified, then the remaining assets of the estate are distributed based on the will. If there is no will or the will has not been verified, then the estate is distributed based on state laws.
The idea of an estate passing through probate is not something that people give a lot of thought, but it is an essential part of finalizing the estate. If you want to make the probate process easier on your family, then you should hire a good attorney who can help you to make all of the necessary arrangements while you are still alive.