What Is Probate?
After someone passes away, their assets may go through the probate process. Probate refers to the process by which a decedent’s debts are resolved and remaining assets are distributed to the heirs. The heirs often benefit from working with a probate attorney, as this process can sometimes be complicated and lengthy. Probate begins with the authentication of the will.
Authenticating the Will
If the decedent had a last will and testament, filing it with the probate court is generally the first step in the process. This should be done as soon as possible. All legal heirs and beneficiaries listed in the will are given a notice of the court hearing. During the hearing, the judge will determine whether the will is valid.
Appointing the Executor
The judge will also appoint an executor of the will. If the decedent specified a preferred executor in the will, the judge will confirm the choice. Alternatively, the judge may ask the next of kin to serve as the executor. Individuals have the right to decline the duties of executor, in which case, the court will appoint someone else. The appointed executor will receive letters testamentary from the court, which authorizes the executor to act on behalf of the estate.
The first task of the executor is to examine all financial paperwork and identify all assets of the decedent. Tax returns, bank statements, investment account documents, insurance policies, and the will itself are used to identify assets. The executor will take all necessary actions to protect the assets, such as by paying the mortgage and property taxes to prevent foreclosure on a home. The date of death values of all assets must be determined.
Paying Debts and Distributing Assets
The executor must identify and notify all creditors, and pay off the decedent’s debts with the assets. Once the debts are resolved and the final income tax return is filed, the executor will petition the court to distribute the estate. Heirs and beneficiaries may then receive the assets.
In the wake of a loved one’s death, you need a skilled and compassionate probate attorney to guide your family through the process. Contact Mesch Clark Rothschild at (520) 624-8886 to request an appointment. Our law firm is proud to serve the Tucson area.