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What Is Probate Administration?

When someone dies, that person’s legal and financial affairs need to be settled legally. The process of doing so is probate administration. This process could include collecting property, filing taxes, paying off loans, or allocating any property that the deceased (referred to in probate as the “decedent”) still owned.

Probate is required if the value of the assets of the decedent exceeds $166,250 and is only in the decedent’s name. Probate may be required if the decedent leaves behind outstanding legal claims.

What Is The Probate Administration Process?

Once the probate administration process begins, it goes through four phases:

  • Initial appointment: The administration of formal probate begins after the superior court of the decedent’s resident county receives a petition for probate, requesting the court appoint a representative for the estate. If there is a will, this person acts as an executor; if there is no will, they work as an administrator. The person representing the estate must hold individual legal priority as a personal representative or be nominated by an individual who does. Often, this person may:
    • Be named the executor within the text of the will
    • Be a legal heir, such as the surviving spouse, child, or next of kin
    • Be a creditor of the estate
  • Property Collection and Valuation: A court-appointed “probate referee” evaluates non-cash property the decent owned. After the court files the valuation, the court determines the estate’s overall value. During this phase, the executor or administrator may sell property, so long as notices are sent to everyone entitled to property within the estate.
  • Settling Debts/Paying Taxes: After probate is granted and everyone with a claim to be paid from the estate is notified, creditors have four months to claim payment. The executor or administrator must file a final tax return for both the estate and the decedent.
  • Final Distribution: The estate’s assets are collected, valued, and charged with all liabilities. After which, the personal representative of the state may ask the court to order a distribution of all remaining assets to the estate’s beneficiaries.

What Is An Intestate Estate?

Intestate estates are those where the decedent passed away without leaving a will behind. When there isn’t a legal document to determine how an executor will divvy up the decedent’s assets, the decision rests on the legal procedures of the court system in the county where the estate resides.

If the property is left intestate, there is no assigned executor of the will; therefore, someone must be named an estate administrator. In the case of an intestate estate, since there is no named executor of a last will and testament,  state law dictates asset distribution.

What Can Someone Expect If Asked To Become An Executor or Administrator During Probate Administration?

If you’ve been named personal representative for a decedent’s estate, you will have a long road of research and administrative duties ahead of you. You may run into final medical expenses that the decedent accrued in their last days that will need to be settled, depending on the estate’s status. You may have a member of the decedent’s family or someone who feels they are entitled to some or all of the estate contest the will. You may be tasked with getting an entire inventory and appraisal of each item or property listed in a will or cataloging the belongings you can find if no will exists.

If a decedent or a superior court chose you to become a personal representative during a probate administration and all of the above seems overwhelming, you may consider contacting our law office to receive consultation from our estate lawyers. Call today at (805) 244-5291.

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Estate Planning Attorney Eric Ridley