When many of us think of the probate process, we imagine a long, drawn out and often acrimonious affair, often with family members contesting the contents of the decedent’s will. Although the probate process does end up like this in many instances, there are also more simplified estate planning procedures that allow loved ones to bypass the complicated mess probate can turn into without the proper oversight of a skilled estate planning lawyer Bloomington, Illinois residents trust.
Normally, the probate process works like this: A person picks a trusted individual to be the executor of their estate when they die. This person will be supervised by the probate court as they make sure that all of the decedent’s debts and taxes are paid, property is taken care of, and when the probate process is complete, distribute the rest of the estate per the instructions the decedent left in their will or as the court instructs in cases where there was no will or the court declares the existing will was invalid.
The first step the executor does when the person whose estate they are overseeing dies is to open the estate. This is done by submitting the will to the probate court in which the decedent lived. The executor must also make sure that all heirs, relatives, and creditors have been notified that the decedent has passed away. An estate planning attorney can assist the executor with these details. Once the will has been filed with the court, they will issue documentation that will allow the executor to act on behalf of the estate and gain access to any financial accounts, property, etc., that the decedent had.
The next thing the executor should do is to investigate the estate to determine its value. This includes any property, cash or assets in financial institutions, money that was owed to the decedent, real estate, as well as any debts the decedent owed. Depending on what type of property he or she owned, the executor may have to arrange appraisals to determine the actual worth of these items, such as real estate, art collections, and so forth.
The executor is also responsible for paying any taxes that are due on the estate, including estate and inheritance taxes which will be on the decedent’s last income tax returns. What is owed will often be dependent on the state the person lived in and what the tax laws of that state are. The executor is also responsible for paying any real estate taxes that may be due during the probate process and until the estate is finally settled. All of this must be done and proof given to the court before the estate can be distributed.
One the process is complete and the court has released the estate from probate, the executor is responsible for distributing to heirs. Once this has been completed, the executor will file a final accounting with the court. When this has been done, the estate is considered settled and the executor’s responsibility is done.
Thank you to our friends and contributors at Pioletti & Pioletti Attorneys at Law for the insight into estate planning and executors.