Probate and Estate Administration
Probate is the formal legal process in which a court acknowledges an individual's death and grants authorization to either a named or unnamed person to administer their estate. This procedure is applicable regardless of whether a valid Will is produced.
During the difficult time of mourning a loved one, the responsibility of managing their estate can be utterly overwhelming. Depending on various factors, such as the absence of a Will, a lost Will, disputes among heirs, substantial debts, and more, the probate or estate administration process can become intricate. However, the attorneys at Minor & Jester, P.C. have extensive experience in probate and estate administration. Our primary goal is to be your dedicated guide throughout this process, to make it as streamlined and straightforward as possible.
A limited number of options exist for finalizing an individual's estate and we provide a general outline below:Probating a Will
- An application for probating the will is submitted to the court, accompanied by the original will, if available.
- Following the fulfillment of all filing and notification prerequisites, the court appoints an Executor to oversee estate administration.
- The Executor furnishes details for the Inventory and Appraisement of the estate, which must be submitted for court approval.
- Creditors of the deceased at the time of death are entitled to assert claims and pursue repayment.
- All outstanding debts of the estate are settled.
- After settling debts and covering probate-related expenses, any remaining estate assets are disbursed to the beneficiaries, adhering to the stipulations in the will or as directed by the court.
- An application is filed with the court to determine the rightful heirs of the deceased's estate. Simultaneously, a request is made for the court to appoint an Administrator to oversee the estate.
- The court designates an independent "attorney ad litem" to investigate both known and unknown heirs. This attorney prepares a comprehensive report for the court.
- Following the ad litem's investigation and the fulfillment of all filing and notification prerequisites, the court will officially determine the identity of the decedent's heirs and appoint an Administrator to manage the estate.
- The Administrator furnishes details for the Inventory and Appraisement of the estate, which must be submitted for court approval.
- Creditors of the deceased at the time of death retain the right to assert claims and seek repayment.
- After settling debts and covering probate-related expenses, any remaining estate assets are distributed among the confirmed heirs either according to the court determined percentage or as mutually agreed upon by the heirs.
- Affidavit of Heirship (AOH): a legal document filed in the real property records to establish the heirs of a deceased person who passed away (typically without a will). This document is applicable where the decedent left no debts and the only estate assets are real property. Where applicable an AOH transfers ownership from the deceased to their rightful heirs without the need for probate.
- Small Estate Affidavit: this simplified court filing allows for a simplified probate process when a deceased person's estate meets certain criteria of the value of the estate and what assets require distribution. It enables the heirs or beneficiaries to claim assets and property without going through a full probate process, which can be time-consuming and costly.
- Trust Administraiton: refers to the process of managing and distributing the assets held within a trust after the grantor (the person who established the trust) passes away or becomes incapacitated. The trustee, who is designated in the trust document, is responsible for carrying out the grantor's wishes as outlined in the trust agreement. This process typically avoids probate and ensures the smooth transfer of assets to the beneficiaries.
- Transfer on Death Deed (TODD): a legal instrument a used to designate a specific beneficiary who will inherit real property upon the owner's death. It allows the owner to retain control of the property during their lifetime while ensuring a smooth transfer of ownership to the named beneficiary upon their passing without a probate proceeding.
- "Pay on death" (POD) or "Transfer on death" (TOD) designations: where a financial account owner specifies one or more individuals or entities (beneficiaries) who will automatically inherit the assets held in that account upon the account owner's death.
If you have recently lost a loved one and require assistance with their estate matters, please call us to schedule a consultation. Our experienced attorneys are here to guide you during this challenging process.