Losing a loved one can be frustrating enough to deal with. But it can become more challenging when you have to deal with legal issues, such as the administration and distribution of their estate. When a person dies, their estate usually goes through probate. It's a judicial process designed to administer a deceased person's estate. If the decedent left a will, probate is used to prove its authenticity and genuineness in court before the estate distribution takes place.
Thus, if you've lost a loved one who left a will, you may have to go to court to file a petition for probate. That way, you can legally proceed with distributing assets and properties to the designated heirs and beneficiaries. However, probate can be a complicated and confusing process like other judicial proceedings. You need to make some preparations for the probate hearing to obtain a more desirable result.
Read on to learn how to prepare for a probate hearing.
1. Hire a Probate Lawyer
Unless you're an expert in estate planning and probate laws, you probably need a probate lawyer to help you navigate the probate hearing. During the proceedings, you may be required to present specific information about the deceased person, their estate, and the beneficiaries. If there's a will, you may have to submit evidence to prove that it's the same document executed by the decedent.
Because of these procedures, you need a legal representative by your side to handle the job for you. They're well-versed with the probate laws in your state, making it easy for them to navigate the probate hearing. For example, they can help you deal with any disputes about the distribution of property, a challenge to the contents of the will, and other estate-related issues.
So, if you want to prepare for the probate hearing properly, get yourself represented by a dedicated lawyer. That way, you can improve the odds of obtaining the best result possible.
2. Gather All Important Documents
To prepare for the probate hearing, you must procure all the essential documents. Without the necessary documentation, the hearing may take a longer time, which prolongs the administration and distribution of the deceased person's estate. Because of this, it's essential to gather some documents before appearing in court. This is to streamline the resolution of the case and the administration of the decedent's estate. Some documents to prepare can include:
Will: If the deceased person left a will, make sure you have the original copy before going to court. If it’s in the possession of someone else at the time of the decedent's death, you should ask them to hand over the copy to you for probate. If there's no custodian, find the will in the deceased person's filing cabinets, desk drawers, or safety deposit boxes.
Death Certificate: During the probate hearing, you may be required to provide evidence of the death of the owner of the will. So, secure an adequate number of copies of the death certificate to be prepared for the probate hearing.
Other Required Documents: Depending on the circumstances, the court may also ask you to present additional documents to prove the genuineness of the will or other significant matters. Hence, make sure you have the miscellaneous documents ready before the probate hearing begins. These can include insurance policies, bank account information, property inventory papers, appraisals, and other forms of documentation.
3. Understand What Happens During the Hearing Process
Generally, probate hearing can be overwhelming if you're unfamiliar with the process. Hence, it's essential to understand what will take place to make better preparations and improve your chances of getting a more positive outcome.
The following are things that usually happen during the probate hearing process:
The court will appoint the executor or personal representative responsible for administering the estate on behalf of the heirs and beneficiaries. The court will decide on the appointment based on certain information, including the relationship between the decedent and the proposed executor or representative.
After the court approves the appointment, it'll issue the Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration. It gives the executor or personal representative the authority to handle the estate and carry out their duties.
Once the executor or personal representative has accomplished their duties, they'll file a Petition for Final Distribution. Once the judge has reviewed the petition, they'll sign the document, which means the decedent's estate is closed.
Given the information above, the probate hearing may take a few months, depending on the size and complexity of the estate. As such, you need to arm yourself with the proper knowledge to ensure a more seamless court hearing. If you have questions about the process, you can always check them out with your lawyer. That way, you'll also know what to expect when the probate hearing starts.
Going through the probate process is never easy, especially if you also have to deal with the pain of losing someone you love. But, if you want the decedent's estate to be distributed according to their wishes, you need to take this legal proceeding seriously. Therefore, keep the information mentioned above in mind to prepare for the hearing and ensure the best possible outcome.