We have talked about estate plans as a means to avoid the cost and process of probate. But what does that mean to you?
Probate is the court-supervised process intended to identify and distribute assets and payment of the debts of a deceased person. The individual charged with probating an estate is called a personal representative or executor and, with sizeable estates, he or she is generally assisted by a probate attorney.
Once appointed and authorized, the personal representative has the task of mustering the estate of the deceased through the probate process. Duties of the personal representative may include the following:
Management of the estate, including real property or commercial interests
Identify creditors and pay debt, including applicable taxes
Prepare an accounting for the estate for the court
Prepare and file a petition for distribution of assets to beneficiaries at the closing of the estate
Probate is a public process that may require concentrated effort over an extended period of time. The effort can be lightened or eliminated through the appropriate use of trusts and other estate planning tools. Throughout the probate process, the executor protects assets of the estate, keeps property and houses appropriately insured, maintains business interests and prepares and files needed tax returns.
The assistance of an experienced probate attorney can streamline the sometimes arduous responsibilities of a personal representative. If you are planning your estate, or winding down the estate of another, seek skilled legal advice.