If you have just lost a close friend or family member, you may be dealing with many emotions. In addition to grieving the loss, you may be faced with distribution of your loved one's estate, including any property, possessions and assets he or she had. You may be faced with the need to open a probate estate in the Superior Court for the county where the decedent resided. The process of finalizing the deceased's estate and distributing property to the beneficiaries named in the will or heirs if there is no will can be difficult during this hard time. The probate process is designed to organize this process and to ensure everything is handled properly.
During the probate process, the estate administrator if there is no will or executor of the will is given the last will and testament, death certificate and other important documents. The estate administrator/executor must notify certain entities, such as life insurance companies and the beneficiaries named in the will, that the person is deceased. The estate administrator/executor must then round up all of the items in the estate and determine the estate's value. Any remaining debts and expenses owed by the estate are then paid out of the estate assets. During this time, the estate administrator/executor must protect the property and assets from theft and/or vandalism. Finally, the remaining assets and property are distributed to the heirs or beneficiaries named in the will after obtaining court approval for the distribution.
The probate process can be lengthy, and it can take some time getting the property to the people named in the will. There are methods of avoiding probate, which include setting up a trust. The property and assets included in the trust are automatically transferred to the intended party upon death.
This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice.