Steps to Open a Probate Estate

Newsroom 13/04/2020 | 14:44

A probate is a process of settling the estates left by a deceased person to his or her heirs and beneficiaries. This process is often supervised by the court to ensure that the will of the deceased is executed and that there is an amicable settlement between all heirs and beneficiaries. It is often a tedious process where the availability depends on the readiness of all the necessary documents. It can take anywhere from a couple of months to a few years, and even longer.


Nevertheless, below are the steps that you need to accomplish in order to open a probate estate.

1. Last Will and Testament

The first step in opening a probate estate is to locate the last will and testament of your deceased loved one. If the decedent planned in advance, then for sure the will contains details about how their assets need to be preserved, managed, and distributed after their death. Review and thoroughly study the document you have on hand and check whether an executor is named because if so, you need to turn over the will to that person.

2. Lists

After carefully reviewing the last will and testament of the decedent, the next step for you to do is to make a list of all the beneficiaries stated in the will. The beneficiaries are all the people who are to be left in charge of the properties of the deceased member of your family. As much as possible, include their contact information in your list, as well as their dates of birth and social security numbers.

On the other hand, in case your deceased loved one was not able to draft up a last will and testament before their demise, then the next step for you to be able to open a probate estate is to make a list of the decedent’s assets and liabilities. It should include the amount of cash left by the deceased, along with their bank accounts, investments in stocks or in kind, real estate, life insurance policies, as well as business interests as applicable. It should likewise indicate all the liabilities incurred by the deceased, such as their mortgages and loans, as well as their medical bills or credit card bills to name a few.

3. Professional Advice

After you are equipped with the last will and testament of the deceased, as well as the list you have created, the next step is to get in touch with a lawyer. Make sure that you seek the advice of those who specializes in estate planning and probate law. It will generally be beneficial for you to have a probate lawyer safeguard your best interest, particularly when the estate proves to be too large or complex to handle. They will also be the best person to consult regarding what you should expect in the probate process.

Before meeting up with the lawyer, it is recommended to get in touch with all the beneficiaries included in the will. Agree on a schedule that all of you can commit to in meeting with the lawyer. In case the deceased was not able to leave a last will, contact all the heirs-at-law and ask for their presence in meeting up with the lawyer to seek professional advice.

4. Document Processing

After meeting up with a lawyer, you need to prepare all the documents and requirements needed in opening a probate estate. These often vary depending on the rules and regulations in your jurisdiction. Nevertheless, estate lawyers and probate court clerks will be able to give you a list of the documents that you need to prepare for the probate estate. Review each of the documents that you need to submit. Affix your signature only when you deem that all the information that is contained in each document is accurate and valid. After this step, you need to wait for any updates from the court. The court judge handling your case will be the one to appoint an authorized personal representative who needs to act on the estate in behalf of all the beneficiaries and heirs.

If you have the last will and testament of your deceased loved one, and you fully understand what it contains, then you are on your first step to opening a probate estate. Once you do, make a complete list of the beneficiaries, as well as the assets and liabilities of the decedent before you meet with a lawyer. Finally, review all the documents you need to sign to open a probate estate and all that is left to do is to wait for any update from the court. 

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