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Understanding the Probate Process – Part Two

Probate

Once you have been successfully appointed by the court as the administrator of an estate, there are a number of tasks you’ll have to complete the following:

  • Set up a tax ID with the Internal Revenue Service
  • Prepare and submit to the court an accounting of all assets and debts of the estate—You will need to document all property owned by the decedent at the date of death, as well as any debts owed. For property that does not have a readily discernible value, you may have to obtain an appraisal (real estate, jewelry, etc.)
  • You must notify all known and potential creditors by posting notices according to court rules (in newspapers or other locations)—once you have identified legitimate creditors, you must pay all final debts of the deceased. The court may require that you prepare and submit a list of all creditors, identifying which claims have been paid and which have been denied.
  • If the deceased had income during the year, you must arrange to have income tax returns prepared and filed
  • You will need to open a separate bank account for the estate
  • You may need to notify government or other agencies of the death
  • Depending on the size of the estate, you may need to prepare and file a federal or state estate tax return

Settling the Estate

If you have prepared the inventory, completed all required notices, paid any final debts, prepared and submitted all required tax returns, and resolved all disputes related to the estate, you can ask the court for permission to distribute the property left in the estate. The court will typically hold a final hearing, giving all interested parties a final opportunity to raise any concerns. You must notify all interested parties of this meeting and you must obtain the court’s permission to allocate assets. You may also be required to complete and file title transfer documents. Once all assets have been legally distributed, you can petition the court to release you from your duties.

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