When an individual dies, the court tries to ensure that their last wishes are honored and their estate is distributed according to the will they leave behind (or state laws, if there is no will). If a decedent named you as their executor in their will, you might find yourself helping the court during probate. Today, we're handing out some tips that can help you navigate the probate process more easily.
At the Law Office of Greg Quimby, P.C., we'll work with you throughout probate to ensure you make the best decisions in your case. Contact us online or via phone at (719) 212-4227 to schedule a consultation with our team and learn more about our process.
Terms You'll Hear During Probate
During probate, you'll probably hear the following terms:
- Decedent. A decedent is somebody who has died, typically the person who wrote the will being examined during probate.
- Beneficiary. A beneficiary is an individual selected in a decedent's will to receive certain assets.
- Intangible assets. Intangible assets are property you cannot touch, such as a bank account, life insurance policy, etc.
- Tangible assets. Tangible assets do have a physical presence, such as a house, a vehicle, etc.
- Trust. A trust is another kind of document that a decedent can use to award assets to beneficiaries. Unlike wills, trusts do not have to go through probate.
- Grantor. The person who writes a trust is called a grantor.
- Trustee. The trustee is the individual in charge of administrating a trust. Sometimes, a grantor will appoint the same person as both a trustee and a personal representative, if they have both a will and a trust.
What Is an Executor/Personal Representative?
When a person writes a will, they usually appoint another individual (often their heir) as a personal representative. The personal representative is in charge of working with a probate court once a decedent passes away to ensure their last wishes are fulfilled and their estate is distributed properly.
I was Appointed as a Personal Representative—What Should I Do?
If a decedent named you their personal representative in their will, you should:
- Go to the court and receive Letters of Appointment. These letters enable you to administrate the estate and the probate process. The court will verify the integrity of the will before giving you Letters of Appointment.
- Figure out if the decedent had a trust (and if so, who the trustee is). Then, make sure there are no conflicts between the trust and the will (for example, check to make sure the same assets aren't awarded in both the trust and the will, especially to different beneficiaries).
- Think about whether someone may want to contest the will. Sometimes, a family member with a grudge may try and contest the will to claim some of the decedent's property. Thinking about potential problem individuals before they can contest the will gives you time to prepare a rebuttal.
- Inventory the decedent's estate. Work with a financial professional specializing in asset evaluations to calculate the total value of the decedent's estate. That can help you figure out what the estate is worth and distribute assets more accurately.
- Try and get information about any debts the decedent owed. Creditors must be repaid before beneficiaries can get their assets in most probates. Preparing for creditor payments in advance can help make the process easier.
At the Law Office of Greg Quimby, P.C., we'll work with you to ensure your probate case goes as smoothly as it possibly can. To schedule a consultation with our team or learn more about our estate planning services, contact us online or via phone at (719) 212-4227.