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10 Steps of the Probate Process

10 Steps of the Probate Process

Here are the answers to everyone’s mind when facing the challenges a loved one has passed away. Such as, where do I start? And what are the steps? I will review with the goal of making this complicated and for most overwhelming process just a little simpler and reduce the stress for you and your family.

1. Look for a will or trust
– Get copy of Death Certificate

2. Take inventory of all personal items/valuables
– Identify and collect assets this may include everything from prized collections to bank accounts and take pictures or video and make a list of assets and liabilities

3. Secure any real property/houses
– Change locks install security systems, and determine if there is real estate to be sold or if the estate will hold on and maintain the property/s and maintain the bills such as mortgage & HOA and utilities of the property

4. If there are multiple heirs, and no will, then decide who will be in charge, which can be called the personal representative of the estate
– The personal representative or PR can live out of state if there is no one to wants to be the PR then an administrator will be appointed

5. Ask for referral of an attorney who specializes in probate, not as a side practice or, interview a couple of probate attorneys for the best fit
– This is a critical step and the right attorney is worth their expense in assisting the estate. Obviously expertise in this field is important but also you want to find someone who is compassionate and will work with the family during this trying period

6. Value the personal items of the estate
– You may need an appraiser for jewelry, art and real estate. Be careful as criminals read obituaries and I have found that out that family members have a tendency to remove items for themselves for keepsakes, however no assets should be release except through the probate process

7. Determine outstanding debt
– These may include medical bills, credit cards, loans so you gotta look into some personal paperwork and check the mail. Notice must be mailed to each known credit to notify them of the death

8. If there is real estate to be sold, find a probate real estate expert
– Find a probate real estate expert, I have learned that most real estate agents have little or no experience with this process which is absolutely going to cost everyone a lot of time, and money and aggravation. The assets may be sold or liquidated after the hearing for the issuance of the letters of testamentary or letters of administration and receiving the order from the court then an offer for real property can be accepted and then a petition filed for confirmation of sale hearing (if court confirmation is required).

9. After completing these steps, the estate can be closed, and the funds or assets distributed to the heirs and beneficiaries
– The court should then approve what is called the final account and petition for distribution.

10. Decide who gets what
– A will can help provide instructions for a particular item like a piece of jewelry or a specific amount of money. If there is no will determine what needs to be classified as community property or separate property. Community property may stay with a surviving spouse.
Separate property assets are distributed by State or statutes.

If there are no family members that can be located the estate may be distributed to the state.

Look I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice. What I am sharing is based on years of experience in helping families, attorney’s, and trustee’s.

These steps are generally how the process works but please by all means check with your state and local statutes for more specific information or contact us today at 310-698-6444, we know professionals that we can recommend to you.