The probate process is perhaps among the least understood aspects of estate planning. It can be complex and it may be a prolonged matter that takes months to complete. However, the steps of the process can actually be clearly defined. When you hire a probate lawyer serving The Woodlands, he or she will explain the probate process to you and answer any questions you may still have.
File the Petition
The first step in the probate process is to file a petition in probate court and provide notice to the heirs. If the individual died with a will, then the petition will seek to admit the will to probate and appoint the executor. If the individual died intestate, the petition will seek to appoint an administrator for the estate. All of the heirs and beneficiaries will be provided with notice and a notice about the probate hearing will usually be published in the local newspaper. This allows beneficiaries to voice objections in court.
Give Notice and Take Inventory
Once the executor is appointed by the court, he or she must notify all creditors of the estate. Creditors must make a claim within a certain period of time. Then, the executor will take an inventory of the estate property. The inventory includes real property, stocks, business interests, and other assets. The estate may need to hire an independent appraiser to assess the value of non-cash assets.
The next step in the probate process is to pay claims. The executor will determine which claims against the estate are legitimate. Those will be paid and other expenses, such as funeral expenses, will be paid. It may be permitted to sell estate assets if this is necessary to pay these obligations.
Once all legitimate claims have been satisfied and the waiting period to file claims has expired, the executor will ask the court for the authority to transfer the remaining assets. If the individual died with a will, the assets will be transferred in accordance with those specifications. If the individual died intestate, the assets will be transferred in accordance with the state intestate succession laws.