• How to Probate an Estate Back Cover
  • How to Probate an Estate Back Cover

How to Probate an Estate

Probating an estate can be a difficult and time consuming process involving taxes, fee payments, beneficiary disputes and tricky asset transfers. This book explores the process from the moment the deceased passes away right through to the distribution of assets. Items such as death certificates, autopsies, funeral planning and asset management are discussed at length. It will show you how to:

  • Initiate and close probate with ease.
  • Learn how to locate and manage estate assets.
  • Deal with creditors’ claims, taxes, and trusts.
  • Avoid the common mistakes made by many executors.
  • And much more….


Probate has come to mean not just proving the validity of a Last Will and Testament but the entire administrative process surrounding the collecting of assets, payment of debts and the passing of a deceased person’s legal title to property to his or her beneficiaries.

Probating an estate can be a demanding and time consuming process involving complicated taxes, fee payments, disputes amongst beneficiaries and tricky asset transfers. It is therefore important that you are properly prepared for the task before embarking on it – especially if you are a first time executor. Any omission or error on your part could result in financial losses to the estate, substantial delays in the completion of probate and the transfer of assets to beneficiaries, and, in certain circumstances, personal liability for you as executor or personal representative.

Executors have a general duty to administer the deceased’s estate and to distribute the estate to the beneficiaries named under the deceased’s Last Will and Testament or, in the absence of a Last Will, to the deceased’s heirs in accordance with state intestacy laws. In carrying out your duties as executor, you will be obliged to act promptly and in the best interests of both the estate and the deceased’s beneficiaries or, as the case may be, heirs. How to Probate an Estate will ensure you are aware of what your duties and responsibilities are and how to carry out those duties.

How to Probate an Estate will, amongst other things, guide you on:

  • what to do immediately following the death of the will maker;
  • what to do during the first month of your appointment;
  • how to open and close probate proceedings,
  • how locate and take possession of the deceased’s property (the ‘estate’);
  • how to prepare an inventory of all the assets and property owned by the deceased at the time of death and value those assets;
  • how to manage, protect and preserve the estate;
  • how to notify creditors of the deceased’s death, deal with creditors’ claims and decide which creditors’ claims should be allowed and which should be disallowed;
  • how to discharge taxes; and
  • how to distribute assets to the beneficiaries.

How to Probate an Estate will guide you step by step through the probate process. For more information on the contents of this book, please see the tab entitled “Table of Contents”.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 - Overview of Probate and the Executor Role

What Is Probate and How Is it Commenced?

Letters of Authority

Why Are Letters of Authority Necessary?

Are Letters of Authority Always Needed?

Persons Entitled to Apply for Letters of Authority

Restrictions on Who Can Be an Executor

Out-of-State Executors

Getting Appointed & What to Do Next

How Long Does Probate Take?

How Much Will Probate Cost?

Do You Need a Lawyer?

Chapter 2 - Duties and Responsibilities of Executors

Responsibilities of an Executor

General Duties of an Executor

Fiduciary Duties of an Executor

Powers of an Executor

Executor’s Liability

Protections for the Executor from Liability

Payment of Compensation to Executors

Should You Accept Your Appointment as Executor?

What to Expect When Appointed

Resigning After Accepting the Appointment

Declining to Act as Executor

Chapter 3 - The Executor’s Duties - What to Do Immediately After Death


What to Do If Death Occurs at Home

Autopsy Requirements

Organize Anatomic Gifts

Obtain Copies of the Death Certificate

Review Letter of Instruction

Locate the Will and Other Important Papers

Arrange Funeral and/or Memorial Service

Chapter 4 - Making Sense of the Will and What to Do if There isn’t One

Determining Whether a Will Is Valid

Age of Majority

Mental Capacity

Undue Influence

Format of a Will

Signing of a Will

Witnessing a Will

Notarizing a Will

Reading of the Will

Notifying Beneficiaries and Others

Dying Intestate

Partial Intestacy

Appointment of an Administrator

Distribution of Assets on Intestacy

Chapter 5 - The Executor’s Duties: Taking Stock

Estimate Cash Needed for Immediate Future

Reducing Expenses During those First Few Days

Providing for Minor Children

Initial Inspection and Protection of Property

Chapter 6 - What an Executor Should Do in the First Month


Set Up a Filing System

Filing Tips

Obtain a Tax Identification Number

Open a Bank Account in the Name of the Estate

Sort Through the Deceased’s Personal Belongings

Claim Unpaid Salary, Insurance and Other Benefits

Managing the Estate

Send Death Notices to the Utilities Companies and Financial Institutions

Cancel Unnecessary Estate Expenses

Dealing With Depreciating Assets

Securing Assets Managing Personal Property

Managing Real Estate

Management of Property

Managing Cash Accounts and Investments

Managing a Business

Managing Debts of the Estate

Dealing With Taxes

Keep Copies of All Documents

Chapter 7 - Property that Doesn’t go Through Probate

When Is Probate Necessary?

Payable on Death or Transfer on Death Accounts

Transfer on Death Securities

Retirement Accounts

Joint Accounts

Custodial Accounts

Savings Bonds

Life Insurance Proceeds

Joint Ownership of Property

Revocable Living Trust

Lifetime Gifts

Probate Free Transfers of Assets

Chapter 8 - How to Initiate the Probate Process

What Are the Main Steps in a Probate?

Who Can File the Petition?

Where to File a Petition for Probate

Ancillary Probate

How Long Will Probate Take?

Is a Lawyer Required to Assist With Probate?

Types of Probate

Small Estate Administration

Unsupervised Administration

Formal or Supervised Probate


Initiating Supervised Probate

Notifying Interested Parties of the Hearing

Proving a Will and Dealing With Will Contests

Letters of Authority

The Requirements of a Surety Bond

Notifying Beneficiaries

Collecting and Inventorying the Estate’s Assets

Chapter 9 - Creditor Claims

Dealing with Creditors

Identification and Notification of Creditors

Time Limitations on Submission of Claims

Evaluation of Claims

Payment of Claims in Solvent Estates

Priority of Payments in Insolvent Estates

What Assets Should Not Be Used to Pay Debts?

Chapter 10 - Estate Tax

Responsibilities for Payment of Tax

Income Taxes

Estate and Inheritance Taxes

Chapter 11 - Distributing Assets and Closing the Estate

Closing the Estate and Distributing the Assets

What is an Accounting?

The Requirement for an Accounting

Waiving the Requirement for an Accounting

Formulating a Plan for the Distribution of the Estate Assets

Petitioning the Court to Approve the Plan of Distribution

Giving Notice of the Hearing

Distributing the Estate Assets

Transfer of Real Estate

Transfer of Cars, Boats and Other Vehicles

Transfer of Cash Accounts

Transfer of United States Savings Bonds

Transfer of Broker Accounts

Transfer of Publicly Quoted Stocks and Bonds

Transfer of Other Property

Transfer of Joint Tenancy, Community and Other Survivorship Property

Distributing Property to Children

Obtaining and Filing Receipts

Closing the Estate

What If the Estate Isn’t Ready to Be Closed?

Chapter 12 - The Settling of Trusts

What Is a Trust?

What Exactly Are Living Trusts?

Parties to a Living Trust

The Successor Trustee

What Must the Successor Trustee Do When the Grantor Dies?

Obtain Certified Copies of the Death Certificate

Obtain a Tax Identification Number for the Trust

Notify Beneficiaries

Collection and Management of Trust Assets

Preparing and Filing Tax Returns

State Taxes and Pick-Up Taxes

Transferring Property to Beneficiaries

Administering a Child’s Trust


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