The Probate Process
For most estates, the probate process is quite straightforward. Much of it is predictable and procedural (thanks to that, we can usually quote a predictable fee).
To briefly outline this process:
You and your attorney will gather information relevant to the estate regarding real property, financial assets, outstanding debts, heirs and beneficiaries of the estate, and so forth.
Initial document preparation
Your attorney will prepare the necessary documents to initiate the probate process. These documents include applications, proofs, and postings, among others. (To learn more about these documents, read our article entitled “Probate Documents.”)
Filing and posting
After preparing the initial documents, you are ready to file them with the court and post notice of the probate. (Notice is required so that any potential heirs, creditors, or other parties with an interest in the estate, are aware of the proceedings.)
Scheduling the hearing
After the initial filings and postings, your attorney can schedule a hearing with the court. (Typically, a hearing can be scheduled within four to six weeks.)
Your attorney will prepare the additional documents needed for the hearing, including oaths and orders. Also, your attorney will prepare you and any needed witnesses for the hearing, so that everyone will feel comfortable with the process.
After the hearing, the appointed Executor/Administrator will be responsible for distributing the estate’s assets and managing any other affairs of the estate. During, and after, this time, your attorney will prepare and file any remaining documents such as notices and affidavits.
For most probates, that is all that is necessary.
For certain estates, especially those over which family member fight, those same steps are necessary, but much more is required, such as negotiations, motions, multiple hearings, settlements, or even trials. In other solvent estates with debt, creditor disputes might arise. These can often be resolved by the Executor/Administrator by contacting the creditor, negotiating a settlement, and paying the debt from the estate’s assets. Occasionally, though, a creditor might make an invalid claim, which could give rise to a dispute that needs resolution. For the most part, though, probate will typically follow the above guidelines.