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How to Submit a Will for Probate

UPDATED: June 19, 2018

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Probate is a complex process of proving the validity of a will and taking care of the deceased person’s estate and final affairs. There are six specific things that an executor must do to successfully complete the probate process of a will.

Collect All the Deceased Person's Assets

The most important and first thing an executor must do is collect the person’s assets. This includes car titles, jewelry, keys to homes and safes, and bank cards. Place all of this information in a safe place where no one will have access to it. Remember that as executor, you can be held liable for anything missing from the estate.

Send a Notice to All Creditors

If available, you will use liquidated money from the estate to pay any remaining creditors. The best way to ensure all creditors are paid is to request a credit report and send the creditors a copy of the death certificate. This will provide the creditor notice of the death, at which point they will send you a final bill. Pay the bills if they are accurate. If a creditor does not seem valid, challenge the claim.

Notify All Insurance Companies and Public Agencies

Locate all insurance accounts, social security information, etc. and notify these entities of the death. Most will also require a copy of the death certificate. If the deceased person has a widow, be sure and specify their information to the social security office for surviving spouse’s payment.

Submit Papers to the Probate Court & Obtain a Probate Court Date

Travel down to the courthouse and inquire about the necessary forms. The person at the window will most likely give you a packet with inventory and appraisal forms, accounting papers, as well as a general probate submission form. Fill out all of these forms in detail and obtain notary signatures where applicable. Submit the papers to the courthouse and obtain a probate court date.

Taxes During Probate

It will be up to you to file the deceased person’s final tax return. If they owe any money, pay it with any liquidated funds. If funds are not available, sell any necessary property from the estate to pay the taxes.

If the overall estate exceeds the national deduction amount for estate taxes, you will also need to file and pay the required estate taxes. Remember that some states also have additional death tax laws.

Distribution of Assets After Probate

Read through the will and determine who receives each piece of property. If anything is unclear, you may need to mention it to the probate judge. Once all the gifts are clearly identified, distribute them to the right people and draft receipts for each distribution. After each gift is done and you have receipts for everything, the will has completed probate.

The probate process can become more complex if anyone challenges the validity of the will. In fact, there have been cases that lasted in court for two or more years. If there are any complications with the will that you've been asked to execute, contact an estate planning attorney for help navigating through the system. Remember that it is your job to protect the assets and deliver them to the proper people. Never allow yourself to be forced into deciding the validity of gifts.

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