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Probate Process | Steps in Estate Settlement 

probate process

Probate Process

Step 1

In most cases, the person requesting appointment as personal representative (executor or administrator) hires an experienced probate lawyer to prepare and file a Petition for Probate.


Probate Process

Step 2

The probate lawyer, or the petitioner arranges to mail notices to everyone named in the decedent's Will (when there is a Will) and all his/her legal heirs about the death and the probate hearing.

The notice must also be published in the newspaper where the decedent lived to let creditors know about the hearing.

Notice gives everyone notified an opportunity to object to admitting the Will and to the appointment of the personal representative.


Probate Process

Step 3

The hearing usually takes place several weeks after the matter is filed. The purpose of the hearing is to determine the validity of the Will and to appoint the personal representative.

Sometimes, the Court will need the people who witnessed the decedent's signature on the Will to sign a declaration.

If there are no objections, the court will approve the petition and appoint the personal representative.


Probate Process

Step 4

The personal representative must identify, take possession of, and manage the probate assets until all debts have been paid and tax returns filed. This process usually takes about a year.

Depending on the terms of the Will (if there is a Will), and on the amount of the decedent's debts, the personal representative may have to sell real estate, securities or other property.

For example, if the Will makes cash gifts but the estate consists mostly of valuable artwork, the art may have to be appraised and sold to produce cash.
Or, if there are unpaid debts, the personal representative may have to sell some of the estate property to pay them.


Probate Process

Step 5

After paying the debts and taxes, the personal representative must file a report with the court. The report accounts for all income received and payments made on behalf of the estate.

The judge will then authorize the personal representative to divide the remaining property among the people or organizations named in the Will.


Probate Process

Step 6

The property will be transferred to its new owners.


Need Help Understanding Terminology?

Estate Settlement Steps | Time Line

Estate Settlement Steps | Dealing with Probate Professionals Checklist


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