If you have been named executor, or heir of an estate, you may find yourself with the legal responsibility of bringing the estate to closure through the probate process. If the estate meets certain criteria, most states have a streamlined approach through which the probate process can be settled, although the exact criterion varies from state to state. This is usually referred to as "summary administration." Unfortunately, in most states there are certain situations which will not qualify for this disposition. Here are a few.
The Estate Is Too Large
To qualify for summary administration, the probate estate must not exceed certain amounts. For example, in Florida the value of the estate (not including the home) must not be worth more than $75,000. If your estate has more assets than this you will have to go through the formal probate process.
The Estate Is Insolvent
If the estate does not have sufficient assets to pay all of the creditors that the deceased owed, the estate will not be able to go through summary administration. The formal probate process will have to assess the assets and decide how they will be disposed of and how the proceeds will be split among the creditors.
The Will May Be Challenged
If the deceased left a valid will but you know that there are heirs that will be challenging the will, the estate is not eligible to go through summary administration. The estate will have to be filed with the probate office and the last will and testament will have to be opened and read. A time period will then be established giving parties the opportunity to challenge the will. Once that period has passed, the estate will then have to go through the rest of the formal process.
An Heir Cannot Be Located
Even if the estate meets all of the criteria set forth for a summary administration, if you as executor are not able to locate all of the heirs to the estate, you will not be able to use this process. Although time frames may vary from state to state, all states require you to make a genuine effort to locate all of the beneficiaries of the estate. Once you are able to show that you have diligently searched for the missing heir, their inheritance, or portion of the estate is required to be held in trust for the amount of time that is set forth by your state. If the heir does not surface during this time, their inheritance will then go to the next heir in line.
Even probate of a small estate can be a challenging process. A probate attorney, such as from Moore, O'Connell & Refling PC, will be able to help walk you through the process and advise you on the best direction to go. Call one today and let them review the estate you have been appointed to. Their advice just may save you money.