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Steps to Probate

Probate is the legal process in which a will is proved valid in court. If you were named the executor of another person’s will, it’s your responsibility to handle the probate process. While the process may seem daunting, it can actually be completed in just a few steps.

Here are the steps to probate:

File a Petition
The first thing you have to do is file a petition with the probate court. You’ll have to legally acknowledge in the paperwork that you’re the executor representing the estate. It’s also required of you to file a valid will and death certificate. Once the court approves you as the executor, you can act on behalf of the deceased’s estate.

Notify Beneficiaries and Creditors
Next, you must give notice of the probate to the deceased’s creditors and beneficiaries through the mail. It may also be necessary to publish the notice in a local newspaper to let unknown creditors know about the proceeding.

Take Inventory of the Assets
Collect and take an inventory of all the assets in the estate, including real estate, bank accounts, retirement accounts, stocks and bonds and personal belongings. 

Pay All Bills and Debts
Before beneficiaries can receive their assets, all bills and debts have to be paid first. This includes any outstanding medical bills and funeral expenses. You may have to go through the deceased’s bank accounts and checkbooks to obtain all the information you need. It’s also necessary to pay all the estate taxes.

Distribute the Remaining Assets
Once all the bills and debts are paid for in full, you can begin distributing property to the designated beneficiaries. If the will requests for the creation of a trust for minor children, a spouse or incapacitated family member, money is transferred to the trustee.

Hiring a Probate Lawyer
The probate process may seem quite complicated if you’re not at all familiar with the process. That’s why it makes sense to hire an experienced probate lawyer to guide you through the process. He or she can streamline the process and help you avoid making costly mistakes along the way.

During your initial consultation with a probate lawyer, don’t be afraid to ask questions about his or her experience. For example, you might want to know how many estates he or she has probated or where he or she went to law school. The more information you know about a lawyer, the easier it will be to decide if he or she is right for you or not.