Probate Process | Probate Estate Settlement

probate process



Step 1


Probate Process

6 Steps in the Probate Process

NOTICE: Please note every states' probate procedures are different. Contact a probate attorney to identify the local statutes and procedures that apply.

Dealing with trusts and assets that avoid probate

In most cases, the person requesting appointment as personal representative (executor or administrator) hires an experienced probate lawyer or estate administration attorney to prepare and file a Petition for Probate.

Step 2

Notices to Heirs

Creditor Claims

Probate Process

The probate lawyer, or the petitioner arranges to mail notices to everyone named in the decedent’s Will (when there is a Will) and all his/her legal heirs about the death and the probate hearing. (probate hearings are not necessary for estate settled under trust agreements)

The notice must also be published in the newspaper where the decedent lived to let creditors know about the hearing.

Notice gives everyone notified an opportunity to object to admitting the Will and to the appointment of the executor, personal representative.

Step 3

Probate Hearing

Court Approves Appointment

Probate Process

The hearing usually takes place several weeks after the matter is filed. The purpose of the hearing is to determine the validity of the Will and to appoint the executor, administrator or personal representative.

Sometimes, the Court will need the people who witnessed the decedent's signature on the Will to sign a declaration.

If there are no objections, the court will approve the petition and appoint the personal representative.

Step 4

Asset Identified and Managed

Debts Paid

Assets Valued

Probate Process

The personal representative must identify, take possession of, and manage the probate assets until all debts have been paid and tax returns filed. This process usually takes about a year.

Depending on the terms of the Will (if there is a Will), and on the amount of the decedent's debts, the personal representative may have to sell real estate, securities or other property.

For example, if the Will makes cash gifts but the estate consists mostly of valuable artwork, the art may have to be appraised and sold to produce cash.
Or, if there are unpaid debts, the personal representative may have to sell some of the estate property to pay them.


Step 5

Accounting Filed With Court

Assets Distributed

Probate Process

After paying the debts and taxes, the executor personal representative must file a report with the court. The report accounts for all income received and payments made on behalf of the estate.

The judge will then authorize the personal representative to divide the remaining property among the people or organizations named in the Will.


Step 6

Estate Closed

The property is transferred to its new owners. The final estate accounting is completed. Estate is closed after consultation with the attorney. Probate process ends.

Quick Links...

Probate and Estate Settlement

Getting started - Reading the will

Estate Settlement frequently asked questions

Glossary of probate terms

Intestate - Death without a will

Assets that avoid the probate process

Grief Care - Dealing with the loss of a parent

Executor Duties Understanding the risks of serving as executor

Estate Settlement Timeline

You are named the Executor, but should you serve?

Estate Settlement, getting organized

Executors: Preparing for your first attorney meeting

How to have an estate sale


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