The loss of a family member or close loved one is usually followed by a period of grief and often confusion. The emotional impact of the decedent’s death may not be all you have to worry about if you recently lost someone close to you. There is also a practical, or legal, aspect to a death that must also be addressed. Specifically, the estate will likely be required to go through the legal process known as probate. If the decedent left behind a Last Will and Testament, the individual named in that Will was appointed by the decedent to oversee the probate of the Will. If that person is you, and you have never served as an Executor before, you likely have no idea where to start nor what the position actually entails. As such, your first question will likely be “Who can help me probate a Will?”
As a first time Executor, it helps to learn some probate basics before moving forward. Probate is a legal process that is typically required following a death. Probate is intended to serve several purposes and to accomplish several goals, including:
- Identifying, locating, and valuing all assets owned by the decedent, or in which he decedent had an interest, at the time of his/her death.
- Notifying creditors of the estate and providing them with the opportunity to file claims against the estate.
- Ensuring that any state and/or federal taxes due from the estate are paid
- Effectuating the legal transfer of the remaining estate assets to the intended beneficiaries and/or legal heirs of the estate.
The Role of Executor
Someone must be in charge of overseeing the probate process. If the decedent died testate, meaning he/she left behind a valid Last Will and Testament, the individual named as the executor in the Will is the person who will be in charge of overseeing the probate of the Will. If the decedent died intestate, or without executing a valid Will first, someone will need to volunteer to be the Personal Representative and oversee the probate process. As the Executor of the Will you have numerous duties and responsibilities associated with the probate process. Your duties begin by submitting the decedent’s Will to the appropriate court for authentication along with the documents necessary to open the probate of the estate. After that you will need to notify creditors of the estate according to the procedures for notification of creditors, including by publication of the notice of probate in a local newspaper. You will then need to review any claims submitted and decide whether to approve and pay the claims or deny the claims. Throughout the probate process you will be expected to maintain and guard all estate assets until it is time to transfer them to their new owners. At that time, you must make sure that all taxes owed have been paid and that all legal documents necessary to effectuate the transfer have been properly prepared.
How Can an Estate Planning Attorney Help You Probate a Will?
As you can see, there are a considerable amount of legal issues involved in the probate of a Will. From the beginning when legal documents must be drafted to open the probate of the estate all the way through to the conclusion when more legal documents must be executed to ensure that the remaining estate assets are properly transferred to their new owners, knowledge of the law and the legalities involved is crucial. That is why most Executors decide to retain the services of an experienced North Carolina estate planning attorney to assist them throughout the probate process. In the event someone files a Will contest, or a creditor appeals a denial of a claim, you will absolutely need an experienced attorney on your side. Having that attorney on board from the beginning of the probate process, however, will make your job much easier and will go a long way toward ensuring that everything is done correctly and efficiently during the probate of the Will.
For additional information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions about how to probate a Will, contact the experienced North Carolina estate planning attorneys at The Law Offices of Cheryl David by calling 336-547-9999 to schedule an appointment.