Losing a loved one is never easy. And while you’re dealing with the emotional blow that’s been dealt to you, it can be overwhelming to think about the logistical issues that have to be taken care of, such as taking care of your loved one’s estate. After all, a lot of people think that they have to rush to get through the probate process and finalize the estate as quickly as possible.
Moving through the steps of probate
But this isn’t necessary. You can take your time with the probate process, as it’s typically a slow process. In fact, in some cases, the probate process can take as long as two years. And you need to be able to give yourself enough time to do each of the following so that you can competently navigate the process:
- Locate your loved one’s estate planning documents: In some instances, this is easy enough because the lost loved one leaves the documents in an easy-to-find place. In other circumstances, though, there are revised documents stashed around the house. So, make sure that you’re thorough in locating everything you need. You should probably do this within a month of your loved one’s passing.
- Identify all heirs and beneficiaries: To properly probate the estate, you’re going to have to know who your loved one intended to inherit his or her assets. You’ll want to gather their contact information and start reaching out to them in the months following your loved one’s passing.
- File a petition with the probate court: Three or four months after your loved one’s passing, and once you have all the information that you need, you can file a petition with the court to probate the estate.
- Provide notice to creditors: As you’re navigating the probate process, you’re going to have to make sure that you provide notice to your loved one’s creditors so that they can stake a claim to their part of the estate if they deem it proper to do so. Six to 12 months after providing notice you’ll have to decide whether to accept or deny those claims
- Inventory and valuate assets: Six months to a year after your loved one’s passing, you’ll want to take an inventory of the estate and assure that you have an accurate assessment of the value of the estate and the assets within it. This means that you’re probably going to have to find an expert to assist you with the valuation process.
- Pay taxes and bills: During that same time frame, you’ll want to make sure that all of your loved one’s taxes and bills are paid.
- Filing proper motions with the court: As you progress through the probate process, you’re going to have to file certain motions, such as those that are necessary to distribute assets. This very well may not be necessary until nearly a year-and-a-half after your loved one’s passing. It may come quicker, though, depending on the circumstances.
Do you need help navigating the probate process?
This is a general overview of the probate process and is not intended to be comprehensive by any means. However, we hope that it gives you a starting point so that you know what to expect when you start the process. We also hope that it gives you comfort knowing that you’ll have time to mourn your loss without having to worry about rushing to get to the probate process.
That said, we understand that navigating the probate process can be time-consuming and confusing. That’s why it might be best for you to work closely with an attorney who can help you with the steps outlined above.