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How The Probate Process Works

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Are you starting the probate process and want to ensure that it goes smoothly? It will help to have a probate law consultant on your side to guide you through the following steps.

Find The Will

The first step that you take is finding the will that belonged to the deceased. This may take some time since it involves going through the person's belongings to find the physical document. If you happen to find multiple versions of their will, you'll need to ensure that you have the most current version of it as well. If they do not have a will, then the estate goes through the process of intestacy and things become a little more complicated. However, if the deceased has done a good job of selecting an executor in advance, they likely have made them aware of where the most recent version of the will is located as well.

Assess Estate Value

The value of the estate will need to be estimated since it may be subjected to inheritance taxes. This is only for very large estates that are worth more than five million dollars, so if the estate is fairly small you won't have to worry about this at all. If the estate is quite large and does qualify, you'll need to submit the proper paperwork to declare that the estate is required to pay estate taxes, and then pay those taxes before the process can continue.

Gather Assets

Assets that belong to the estate will need to be gathered since they will eventually be sold or distributed to heirs of the estate. This includes taking control of bank accounts, property, vehicles, and other high-value assets that have a value. 

Pay Debts

A list of outstanding debts will be made, and creditors will be paid off with cash that belongs to the estate. If the cash is not on hand to pay off debts, then assets will need to be sold so that the debts can be paid off. 

Distribute Assets

The remaining assets that are left will be given to the heirs of the estate. This can become complicated if items were to be left to heirs but were sold to pay off debts. For example, a vehicle may have been given to a specific person, but it needed to be sold to gather enough money to pay off a creditor. In this situation, modifications will need to be made for asset distribution to ensure that things are fair for all heirs.