Probate requires a variety of formal legal documents. Please note that each probate presents unique issues that need to be addressed by custom-tailored documents. To briefly summarize some of the most common documents, review the below list.
Every probate starts with an application. This application will include information relevant to the estate of the person who passed away, such as the date of death, the county of primary residence, and a brief description of some of the Will’s dictates (i.e., who the Will named as Executor). You will submit this application to the court. Doing so initiates the process.
In order to probate a Will, we will need to prove to the court that the assertions made in the application are true (along with a few other items). Do not be intimidated by this, though, most proofs are only a paragraph long, and are supported by simple sworn testimony. Also, don’t worry about testimony. When giving testimony, your attorney will be right there with you, and, in most cases there won’t be another attorney to cross-examine you or anything like that. It is very straightforward.
Orders and Judgments
Depending on the type of probate needed, orders, judgments, or both may be necessary. Your attorney will draft these documents and the judge will sign them. When a judge puts her stamp on an order or a judgment, it is legally-enforceable, so these might be the most important documents of the entire process. As far as content is concerned, these documents will typically formally appoint the Executor, waive bond and appraisers, grant Letters Testamentary, or formally determine heirship.
After the judge signs the order, the Executor/Adinistrator will receive Letters Testamentary. The Executor/Administrator will keep, and use, these documents in order to demonstrate legal authority to act on behalf of the estate. For example, if your loved one left a bank account, you could show the bank your Letters Testamentary in order to get control of that bank account in order to pay any debts or distribute the money to the beneficiaries of the estate.
It is necessary to send notices to parties who have an interest in the estate, such as heirs. Simply put, the law ensures that anyone owed money from the estate will receive it, or at least be aware of their rights to it. You will also need to file an affidavit promising that you have sent out the necessary notices.
It is sometimes necessary to file an inventory of the estate’s assets, debts, and claims to the court. This simply ensures that everything has been diligently accounted for, and that no one is hiding anything, and that everyone receives that to which they are entitled. In many cases, though, you might be able to instead file an “Affidavit in Lieu of Inventory.” This document does not require a formal list of assets. It simply permits the Executor/Administrator to formally swear that he or she has maintained records of the estate’s assets, and managed any outstanding affairs with those assets.
Almost every probate will require the above documents. Some probates might require documented consent by heirs, consent by alternate Executors or Administrators, or deposition recordings reduced to writing.