Several steps need to be taken at specific times and within certain deadlines throughout a Probate case. This article will provide you with a shortened version of the Probate process before the hearing, including the documents you will need at the initial consultation with your probate attorney, when certain documents need to be filed with the court, and what you will need to do in your role as Personal Representative of the Estate.
Essentially, the probate attorney will need all information about the decedent as possible. Creating a list or log of all accounts, property, heirs, those who should be disinherited, specific wishes, and the like will make the process much easier. Being organized, not commingling your funds with the decedents, paying debts, and keeping track of property may seem overwhelming at first, but as long as you stay on track and keep assets and debts separate, the Probate process will go much faster. At your initial appointment with the attorney, you should bring:
- The decedent’s Trust documents (if any)
- At least 5 certified Death Certificates
- Titles of real property owned by the decedent (either jointly or separately)
- Any bills in the decedent’s name (utilities, hospital bills, etc.)
- Stocks, bonds, or annuities in the decedent’s name
- All bank statements, IRAs, retirement statements, or portfolios
- A list of all possible beneficiaries, heirs, or people who would be disinherited
- Any Federal and State tax returns
Once you have initially met with the probate attorney, the original will and any codicils will be lodged with the court, the initial Petition for Probate will be filed, and a hearing date will be assigned. Your attorney will notify all potential beneficiaries or heirs of the decedent that there is now a probate case opened and notify them of the hearing date. The attorney will then file the Notice of Petition to Administer Estate with the court prior to the hearing to ensure the court that all heirs were notified of the proceeding.
The Personal Representative will need to obtain a bond through a surety company unless the decedent’s will declares that the bond can be waived with their own money. The amount of the bond is based off the value of the estate. However, even if the will declares the bond can be waived, the court may still order that a bond be obtained. The bond ensures that the Personal Representative will uphold their duty described in their role of being the Personal Representative of the Estate.
Your probate attorney will prepare and submit a proposed Order for Probate to the court prior to the hearing and then appear at the hearing. Once the Duties and Liabilities of the Personal Representative, Confidential Statement, and Bond are filed, the Judge will then appoint the Personal Representative, Letters of Testamentary will be issued and the Order For Probate will be signed by the Judge. Certified Letters will be needed so the Personal Representative can begin managing and administering the estate.