The probate process begins when an individual passes and their will is evaluated by the court. The court supervises the process of dividing their assets, settling their debts, and distributing what is left to their heirs. If the individual has a valid will, then that will be used by the court to distribute assets. If not, then the process is governed by the court according to the rules of intestate succession. This process differs from state to state.
Beginning the Probate Process
If no executor is named in the will you can ask the court to consider you as the executor. In order to do that, you will need to file the request alongside a death certificate, and the original will with the probate court.
The petition will include the date of death alongside potential beneficiaries in the will. In Indiana, you can find all the forms that you require here.
The First Hearing in the Probate Process
The court will schedule a hearing. If others object to you as executor they will have a chance to voice those objections here. Prior to the hearing, you are required to send a formal notice to each of the beneficiaries or those who stand to inherit under intestate successful when no valid will is available. You must also send notice to any creditors and publish a notice in a newspaper.
In the majority of cases, your request is approved without being contested and the court authorizes you to act on behalf of deceased’s estate called Letters of Authority or something similar.
Posting a Bond
At this point in the probate process, the court may ask you as executor to post a bond. The bond is an insurance policy against losses suffered to the estate by executor mismanagement. Many wills explicitly state that no bond is necessary. If the will does not mention bonds one way or the other, it’s up to the judge’s discretion whether a bond is required.
Generally speaking, the larger the estate is, the larger the bond required.
Proving the Validity of the Will
The next step in the probate process is proving the validity of the will. Under ideal circumstances, an executor need only produce a notarized statement from the individual who is listed as a witness on the will. In other cases, a witness will need to produce an affidavit. Failing either of those, the witness will be brought to the court, sworn, and testify to the validity of the will.
If the will is uncontested, you can move on to the next step.
Managing the Estate Property
At this point in the probate process, the probate case is still pending. The executor can, however, begin gathering the deceased’s assets. The executor should also set up a bank account in the estate’s name that will be used to pay off creditors.
At this point, you can submit a list of the deceased’s property to the court and have assets appraised. You will very likely need the court’s permission before selling off assets, however, unless the will authorizes the executor to settle debts and liquidate assets without the court’s approval
Distributing the Deceased’s Assets
Once enough money has been set aside to pay off debts or unpaid taxes, the executor may proceed to the next stage of the probate process. If this money has been set aside, the executor is cleared to begin distributing some of the assets to heirs and beneficiaries. There may be a limit on the amount of money that you can distribute heirs before the court has looked over the paperwork.
There are some kinds of property that it makes sense to distribute immediately like cars and real estate, for instance.
After the estate has paid creditors and the government, the executor can proceed to distribute all of the deceased’s assets. Once the estate is closed you are released from duties assigned to the executor.
You will need to submit an accounting of what has been distributed to whom to the court. It will also show proof of payment to creditors and proof of taxes paid to the government.
We Can Help You With the Probate Process
If you need help managing a loved one’s estate or guidance throughout the probate process, contact Barnes Cadwell Law today. We can help you through each of the steps involved.