Recently lost a loved one and confused about probate law? Our handy guide to the terminology involved will clear things up.
#1 Probate law:
Governs the time where someone’s estate is being split up and passed on to their beneficiaries, whether the deceased left a will or not. In the latter situation, probate is necessary to pay their remaining bills and ensure their taxes are filed.
A crucial part of probate is the will. When you write a will, you can stipulate who manages your estate; this person is called the executor of the will.
#3 Death Certificates:
Death certificates are not essential throughout the probate process, but if probate was, for some reason, not opened relatively soon after death, you might need to provide a death certificate to apply for the probate process. Some states may require a death certificate in any situation, so be sure to find out.
#4 Personal Representatives:
If you’re going through probate with your family, you’ll be asked to nominate someone as a personal representative. If the deceased died without a will, the court might choose someone for you, such as their spouse, a grown-up child, or their next-of-kin. You can also ask a probate attorney for advice or find a law firm that specializes in probate law, like Boppre Law Firm.
You can petition to open probate at any time, although most states have laws stating that the executor must open the will to probate in a given time-frame following the person’s death.
#6 Court Hearings:
Court hearings occur when the will is contested, or there is evidence of a newer will. Sometimes the executor of the will is challenged because somebody doesn’t agree with their being nominated.
#7 Letters Testamentary:
The documentation the executor or personal representative gets to say they will get the documentation at a later date, allowing them to act on behalf of the deceased estate.
Posting bond is like insurance. It protects the executor of the will in case of errors in their management of the estate. You have to do this before you can accept the legal authority to act on behalf of the estate. Again, some states have different laws. Some may allow the beneficiaries of the will to waive the need for bond; some states insist on you posting bond.
This is everything the deceased owned; property, land, cash, cars, bank accounts, insurance policies, stocks and shares, and anything else they owned. It’s the job of the executor to track down and account for all of this.
#10 Taxes and Debts:
The executor of the will is responsible for paying any outstanding bills or taxes out of the deceased’s estate. This has to be done before the beneficiaries of the will receive anything.
With the jargon cleared up, you’ll have more time to focus on putting one foot in front of the other, and less anxiety over the legalese. That said, it’s always worth getting an attorney’s advice at a time like this. They’re there to help.