Probate Lawyer Folsom, CA
When an individual passes away, their property and assets must be distributed to beneficiaries in the way they instructed within their will. If they did not leave a will, their estate is “intestate” and will follow the rules of the probate court to determine how the assets should be distributed amongst the closest blood relatives.
The Executor Begins Probate
Whoever is named as the executor for the deceased within the will is responsible for taking the will to the probate court clerk for filing and opening the estate. Then the court will schedule a hearing to officially appoint this person as the executor and provide them with a legal document giving them authority over the estate.
If there is no will, anyone may open the estate, but usually, the court will choose someone in the immediate family to be the executor such as a spouse, adult children, or parents.
Inventory of Assets
The executor will collect all the assets and gain control of any bank accounts and investment accounts. The will should outline anything else in their possession such as house deeds, titles for cars, life insurance policies, business ownership, or other valuables like artwork and jewelry. While waiting for the official probate hearing, the executor is responsible for keeping everything safe.
Determine Asset Value
If you are named executor, you will have to determine what the value of the entire estate is including debts and values of things that are not so obvious and may need a professional appraisal. Not all assets will go through probate, such as retirement accounts with a named beneficiary or jointly owned real estate. Some of these things will be taxable at the federal or state levels. Speak with an attorney to find out exactly what is liable for taxation because you will be the one to file estate income taxes, as well as pay final bills and other expenses related to settling the estate.
Distribute the Assets
The last step in probate is to distribute the assets to the beneficiaries. This occurs after all the bills and taxes are paid, and the court approves the final accounting and proceedings.
Not everyone must go through the probate process. If you set up a living trust for your assets, they go directly to your heirs upon your passing and they do not get swept up into probate or the public records, and your family does not have to spend time or money in court.