First Steps With Probate After A Loved One Passes Away

Even though an executor, personal representative, or administrator of an estate may not officially be in charge until the probate court rules on the matter, they may need to act before that time. The first steps listed below should help get things started.

The Arrangements – This term covers the final arrangements of the deceased. In some cases, the deceased made final arrangements directly with the funeral home. In other cases, the wishes of the deceased can be found in the home or the safe deposit box. Even though it's not recommended, some may even leave their final wishes in a last will and testament. If none of that has been done, though, the family of the deceased may need to make the arrangements.

Paying for the Final Arrangements – Lacking a pre-paid plan, many families use a life insurance policy to pay for the funeral and burial. The beneficiary will have to sign the policy over the facility. Viewings, funerals, caskets, and burials can cost as much as $9,000 or more. Most funeral homes will accept an insurance policy or a burial policy and then bill the survivors for any balances due.

Locate the Will – Wills may or may not exist, but the estate must go through probate either way. It should be noted that very small dollar value estates may qualify for an expedited probate process. Wills may be found in desk drawers, home fire safes, bank safe deposit boxes, and a lawyer's office. Once located, the will should be presented to a probate lawyer so that it can be filed with the local county probate court. In many cases, the will is read by the lawyer and then anyone mentioned in the will is contacted. A notice may follow the will's filing notifying creditors that the estate has been opened.

Probate Begins – Once the will is filed, the probate judge will appoint the executor that will administer the estate. In the event no will was found, the probate lawyer will file a petition or letter of administration with the probate court and an administrator will be appointed. Executors, during probate, have several tasks to attend to when it comes to financial matters. In addition, ensuring that estate property is kept safe is important. For example, the executor is responsible for keeping a home safe from hazards and theft

Speak to a probate law attorney to find out more.