Faced with probating an Estate?
When a family member dies, after you work through the morning process, you are often going to be faced with the question, “What should I do about “opening” an estate?”
The commonly used phrase “open estate” is usually meant to refer to the process of beginning in the probate court the administration of the decedent’s assets and debts. You open an estate by filing a Petition filed in the county in which the decedent was domiciled (usually meaning lived) at the time of his or her death.
If there is a will, then you will need to find the original and submit it to the court.
If there is no will, then the decedent died “intestate” (simply meaning without a will).
When the Petition is approved by the Court, the court will issue what is known as “Letters Testamentary.”
Letters Testamentary allow you to access bank accounts and other financial accounts as well as take most any act the decedent could have taken on the day of his death.
All creditors are entitled to receive notice that the Estate has been opened for probate. The clerk will run a notice in the local paper showing that you have opened the Estate. This notice is usually referred to as the “Notice to Creditors.”
Creditors have 4 months to file a claim. On the outside, under some circumstances creditors will be barred forever from filing a claim after one year from the date of death.
The Personal Representative’s primary responsibility is to secure and collect the assets owned at the time of death, to pay creditors whose claims are approved by the court, and then to make distribution to the heirs and/or beneficiaries under the will.
We recommend that you retain a lawyer to assist you in administering a probate estate. The runs, although simplified for the purposes of this article, are complex and mistakes may be costly to the personal representative.