When a loved one passes away, you may feel thrust into a world of the unknown. Someone who may have acted as a pillar in your life is now gone, and if he or she trusted you to act as executor of the estate, you could now face many tasks that you may not feel 100 percent comfortable handling. However, because you have a sense of duty, you want to do your best to ensure that the probate process goes smoothly.
A conflict-free legal process is typically the most desirable situation. Of course, the hope of such a case does not always come to fruition. Fortunately, you could help yourself by better understanding what steps are involved in the probate process and what property needs attention.
To start the probate process, you need to file the proper petition and paperwork with the court. Before doing so, you may feel as if you have more control over the situation by getting a head start on understanding the assets that will likely need addressing during the proceedings. In fact, gathering the necessary probate property is one of the first steps of the process. Generally, property that will need distributing through probate include any items solely owned by the individual at the time of his or her death.
Items that do not need addressing during probate can include accounts considered payable on death that have the properly named beneficiaries and property jointly owned with another party that has a right of survivorship designation. Assets that were placed into trusts also do not need probating.
After understanding and gathering the property involved in the probate process, you may feel more ready to get started with the next steps involved in the legal proceedings. Though you may already know that property distribution is part of probate, that action typically comes lower on the list of necessary duties. Before distribution to beneficiaries can take place, you will need to complete the following steps:
- Handle all claims against the estate regarding debts and taxes
- Obtain the rights to the deceased's income and dividends
- Settle any disputes that arise during the closing of the estate
Once these and other necessary actions have been addressed, you can then assess the remaining funds and assets to distribute as dictated in the will.
Because handling all the steps of the probate process can be difficult for any executor, you may wish to gain more knowledge on the proceedings involved in California and how to obtain assistance.