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What to Expect When You Are Probating an Estate

What to Expect When You Are Probating an Estate

The death of a loved one is an emotional time. The sadness and pain can be difficult to navigate on your own. When you add in the need to unwind your loved one’s finances, pay their bills, and dispose of their property, an already emotionally fraught experience becomes even more complex and stressful.

The first step after a death is to determine how you must legally proceed to wind down your loved one’s estate. In Indiana, there are a few options: you might be able to proceed under a small estate affidavit or you may need to open an estate with the court in which your loved one lived at the time of their passing. Last week, we discussed when a small estate affidavit is appropriate. Click here for a refresher.

If your loved one had an estate valued over $100,000, then you will need to open an estate. To begin that process, you should get a copy of the death certificate. Once you have that, you can file a petition to probate estate and to appoint a personal representative of the estate with the local probate court. The personal representative is generally named in the will, if one exists. If not, state law creates a hierarchy of who may be appointed.
Upon appointment, the personal representative is responsible for discovering what assets the estate possesses, taking control of them, having them appraised if necessary, applying for an EIN, and opening an estate checking account. The personal representative will also need to send a letter to each of the decedent’s creditors and place an ad in the local newspaper informing potential creditors of the decedent’s death. Once the time for making a claim against the estate has passed, the personal representative must pay the debts owed by the estate, including any taxes.

If there is a will, the personal representative is responsible for interpreting and executing it. The laws on how this must be done are complex, so it is very useful to have an experienced probate attorney helping you. If there is no will, then the property that remains after expenses must be distributed according to the intestacy laws. Once this is all complete, the personal representative must file a closing statement informing the court of what has occurred.

While a non-attorney can handle the probate of an estate on their own, it contains complexities that open the personal representative up to financial and legal liability if not conducted correctly. Therefore, it is very advisable to have a qualified probate attorney assist you. If you need probate assistance or just have questions, please contact the probate attorneys at McNeelyLaw LLP.

This McNeelyLaw LLP publication should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion of any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own lawyer on any specific legal questions you may have concerning your situation.

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