At the outset, probate can seem like a long and confusing process. Filings must be made, notices given, and hearings conducted. Understanding the process can alleviate frustration and create realistic expectations. Smith Simmons helps clear confusion and make sense of the probate process in this edition of the legal brief.
What is probate?
Essentially, probate is the process of collecting the deceased’s property and transferring ownership to descendants, beneficiaries, or creditors.
How does the probate process begin?
To begin a probate proceeding, an interested party files a petition for probate. Once the petition is filed, the judge will need to appoint an administrator of the estate. Typically, the filer will be the estate administrator. Or, if a will is involved, the will may name a personal representative. The administrator is more or less in charge of the probate process. Next, notices of this hearing are given to certain people, usually relatives of the deceased and beneficiaries of the will. If no objections are made at the hearing, the administrator will be appointed.
What to expect
Once appointed, the administrator begins the task of locating estate creditors. The administrator will do this by publishing notice in a local newspaper and sending notices to known creditors. Creditors are the institutions or people to which the estate owes money, property, or obligations. Typical creditors include banks, hospitals, and retail businesses. Creditors may have rights to certain estate property. The probate court will protect these rights for a limited amount of time. Once time has run for a creditor to make a claim, most claims are barred from being made.
During this time the administrator will continue to collect and locate estate property. At some point, the administrator will typically file an inventory with the court. This task can be a tiresome and frustrating task when appropriate records were not kept by the deceased.
After creditors have been given notice, an inventory has been filed, and beneficiaries have been identified, the administrator can ask the court for an order to distribute estate property to beneficiaries and descendants.
Not all probate proceedings are the same. Each of the steps listed above can have multiple intricacies with critical timing involved. In some situations, parts of the probate process can be skipped altogether. Following the strict rules of probate in a timely matter can make the process much smoother and quicker.
Smith Simmons law firm practices family law, business law, and estate planning. Our team prides themselves on handling your unique circumstances with care. Our experienced attorneys ensure your needs are met, whether it be for business, law, or life. Contact one of our offices in Oklahoma City, Dallas, or Austin for your legal consultation today.