Probate can feel like an overwhelming process, in part because it gets a lot of negative attention. There seems to be no end to articles about ways to avoid probate, but it can leave you wondering if probate is as bad as it seems.
Unfortunately, probate always follows tragedy and feelings of grief. Even if a loved one’s passing is expected, probate gets closely tied with the feeling of loss. Probate can also take several months, so the process can seem tedious.
Probate does not have to be a negative process. Here’s what you should know about probate, so you know what to expect.
The road to probate
Initially, the executor will need to file for probate with a probate petition, the original will and a certified death certificate. Depending on your loved one’s county of residence and their unique situation, you may need other supporting documents.
After filing the petition, you will follow the court’s process for getting an inventory of your loved one’s assets. You will also need to contact the people listed in the will (beneficiaries) and any heirs-at-law if the court finds that the will is invalid.
If probate were a simple matter of giving beneficiaries the assets listed in the will, the task would be much simpler. However, most estates have other obligations to fulfill before distributing assets.
First, the estate must pay any owed taxes, followed by any outstanding debts. Keep in mind that some debts end when the debtor passes away, while others become a debt of the estate. It is essential to find out what applies to your loved one’s debts so you can resolve them properly.
Finally, when the outstanding balances are paid, the beneficiaries can receive their inheritances.
What takes so long?
There are a few reasons probate can take a long time to complete. Often, there are delays in reaching creditors and beneficiaries. It can also take a while to track down a loved one’s assets, especially if they have many types of assets.
While the probate process can seem cumbersome, it is essential to finalizing your loved one’s estate.