Probate can be one of the most challenging issues to manage– not least as it combines property, money and family. Elder Estate Planning Attorney R. Sam Price offers a way through the process. —
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Mr Price, Founder of the Price Law Firm, in Redlands, CA, said probate is a process by which beneficiaries legally inherit assets from a Will, usually from a deceased relative.
An executor is usually listed by the deceased to carry out their will’s instructions. If they die without a will, a close relative can be assigned as an executor through state intestacy law.
If there is a property in probate and it doesn’t have to be sold within the probate court, you will have to complete the probate process before obtaining the property title. Then they can seek an accurate property value and renovations advice from a realtor before listing it.
Mr Price said a starting point for an executor is to contact a probate lawyer to understand the process and what is required.
These may include filing court-related documents, collecting life insurance policies and handling tax-related matters.
The process is kicked off with a petition filed to a court local to where the deceased resided. Check state laws to know where you stand if you live out of state or city.
Inform beneficiaries listed in the will that you’re petitioning for probate and the court date if they want to file objections.
Legitimate and identified creditors, such as credit card companies, must also be informed.
Mr Price said: “The next step is to put together an inventory of the estate. This includes locating all estate planning documents, the person’s assets, such as bank statements, life insurance policies, property deeds, and any debt that could stand against the estate’s value.”
Once done, an executor can settle any legitimate debts or personal loans with money from the estate and file income tax returns, including paying any inheritance taxes. Mr Price said: “When outstanding bills and creditors have been paid, you can petition a court to transfer assets to beneficiaries named in the estate legally.”
Real estate could be a minor thorn in an executor’s bid to process probate, mainly if someone who died has left no will or intestate. He advises calling an estate planning lawyer to guide them through the process.
You can petition the court to sell the home, outside of probate court. But check state laws and an estate planning attorney on selling a probate property without court involvement, he added.
A local court will control a house sale and bidding process in an intestate situation. Depending on different state laws, an executor should consult a realtor, a Certified Probate Real Estate Specialist (CPRES), to value, market, and sell the home.
Under some state laws, it can be sold within a certain period. If an offer is accepted, sometimes it can be sold without the court involved, or there may be a four to six week period to enable an attorney to secure a court date to finalize the sale.
While some states cater to complex bidding rounds where buyers can outbid a current buyer, once a sale is settled, Mr Price asserted.
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