What is Probate?

When a person dies, probate is the legal process whereby the deceased person’s assets are shared and distributed to their heirs and any debts are settled. The process can vary depending on the individual circumstances but will involve some or all of these stages. 

Filing a Petition

The first step will be to file a petition with the probate court to start the probate process. The petition is usually filed by the executor named in the deceased person’s Will – generally an executor is aware they have been named in the Will – when the Will was made. If there isn’t an executor an interested party, relative or friend can step in.  

Notification of Creditors and Beneficiaries

Once the petition is filed, the court issues a formal notice to creditors and beneficiaries, which informs everyone of the death and that probate proceedings will be initiated. Creditors are given 2 months to file a claim and beneficiaries are advised of their entitlement. 

Inventory and Appraisal of Assets

The executor will need to produce an inventory of the person’s assets, including property, bank accounts, investments, personal property and any other belongings. 

Payment of Debts and Taxes

The executor uses funds from the estate to settle any debts. These debts will include funeral expenses (unless a separate funeral policy has been set up), any outstanding bills, mortgage payments (if they are not settled by a life insurance policy) and income or estate taxes. 

Distribution of Assets

After all debts and taxes have been paid, remaining assets can be distributed to the beneficiaries following the terms of the will. This will generally involve transferring ownership of property, liquidating assets and distributing funds as set out in the Will. 

Final Accounting and Closing

Once all assets have been distributed and all debts settled, the executor files a final account with the court which sets out all financial transactions. The court will review everything submitted and if satisfied, they will issue an order to close the probate proceedings. 

Discharge of Executor

After the court approves the final account and closes the estate, the executor is discharged as they have concluded their involvement. This relieves them of any further responsibility for administering the estate. 

It is important to note that the probate process can be complex and time-consuming, especially if the estate is large or complicated. Executors may need to seek assistance from lawyers, accountants, or other professionals to ensure that the process is carried out correctly and efficiently.  

When considering who to ask to be an executor, consider the level of work they will need to do, especially if your estate is complicated. It is acceptable to ask more than one person. Similarly, if you are asked to be an executor, ensure you are aware of the level of work involved and as much as possible, glean information about the wishes of the person writing the Will, this will ensure you are forewarned before they pass away.  

If you need advice and guidance on choosing an executor or if you have been asked to act as an executor, our team are highly experienced and can guide you through all the steps.  

Who are Hall Reynolds?    

The team at Hall Reynolds are experienced and committed to providing first-class legal services. Our clients come back to us time and time again because of the pragmatic advice and the service they know they will receive which is delivered in a friendly and approachable manner.    

We offer a traditional face-to-face service, a contemporary work ethos and modern operating systems which enable the swift progression of your transaction.    

Value for money, speed and efficiency are at the heart of everything we do. Where possible, we minimise the legal jargon. We promise to keep you updated as to the progress of the transaction and we are transparent when it comes to fees.    

To find out more about our community involvement or our legal services, contact the team to make an appointment – email@hallreynolds.co.ukor call us on  01789 772955.