In a recent interview, leading estate planning attorney R. Sam Price, founder of Price Law Firm, APC in Redlands, CA, unveiled an important probate checklist. —
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When asked for a comment, Mr Price said, "Probate is required to authenticate a last Will and Testament after someone has passed away. If you've been nominated as executor of a Will, then these are some general steps you'll need to take during the probate process. Only the court can appoint you as executor of the Will."
The first step, according to Mr Price, is to file a petition to open probate of the estate in question.
"In most states, you'll need to file the Will with the probate court as soon as you possibly can after that person has died, which is when you'll also file the petition. Courts in several states will have a form for doing this, meaning it doesn't have to be an overly complicated process."
Mr Price added that a probate judge will hold a court hearing to confirm the validity of the Will, which allows for all relevant parties to object to the Will going to probate.
Also, early in the process, an executor must locate and take into possession all the assets left behind by the deceased. In this way, according to Mr Price, the executor can protect the assets throughout probate.
"It might very well be the case that the deceased did not disclose certain assets or make them known in their Will. It's up to the executor to find these hidden assets, which can be done by combing through tax forms, insurance policies, bank statements, among more," he said.
In the case of outstanding debt, an executor is also tasked with identifying and contacting the deceased's creditors.
“After the deceased has passed away, you must notify the creditors of their death. Furthermore, in most states, the executor is required to publish an obituary in a local newspaper as a way to notify creditors that are not known,” he added.
Following this, the executor then uses the estate funds to pay for the deceased's bills and debts. On top of this, Mr Price mentioned that executors must also prepare and file tax returns for the year the decedent passed away.
“After these steps, the executor will need to petition the court to legally distribute what is left over from the deceased’s assets to any beneficiaries specified in the Will,” he added.
“This checklist is not a comprehensive list of what needs to be completed during the probate process. To ensure that you are correctly going through the motions, make sure to get in touch with an experienced probate attorney for further guidance,” he said.
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