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Why should probate be avoided? (part 2)

Ask the LDA

Series: Probate | Story 2

In the simplest cases, those in which there are no difficult creditor claims, disputes over ownership of assets or arguments against a will, probate often goes smoothly. It occurs in seven phases, and if there are no complications that require additional phases, the system proceeds as follows.

1. Locate the will.

2. Obtain certified copies of the death certificate. Banks and other institutions will want copies.

3. Probate administration requires filing a petition for probate, which usually includes the death certificate and a copy of the will. When there is a known will, the court will appoint the individual named by the decedent as the executor of the will. If there is no known will, the judge will typically appoint someone to be the administrator of the intestate estate.

4. Sometimes identifying an individual's assets takes months to complete. It may even require waiting until the following year to get annual statements from all of the companies where the person held accounts. In some cases, professional appraisals are necessary to assess the value of belongings.

5. One of the executor's duties is to gather the individual's remaining bills, including any end-of-life medical expenses, ensure they are valid and pay them off. It is also necessary to file the individual's estate tax return and final income tax return.

6. Once all bills and liabilities of the person's estate are taken care of, the administrator or executor must distribute whatever assets are left to the decedent's legal heirs. If the individual had a will, it should outline which beneficiaries receive certain assets. However, in cases where there is no will, the remaining assets will be dispersed according to the state's intestacy laws.

7. To finish probate administration, the court must approve an accounting of the estate. Once the necessary tasks are completed, the probate court will close the individual's file.

Diana Wade is a Legal Document Assistant. She can be reached at (661) 821-0494 or [email protected]. Diana is not an attorney; she can only provide self-help services at your specific direction. Kern County LDA #185, ex 4/11/25.