When a loved one dies, the remaining family members and friends go through a variety of emotions and feelings. Many people are unsure of what steps to take in dealing with the decedent’s estate, and there is often confusion when it comes to figuring out how to distribute the person’s assets.
The distribution process depends on various factors. It is smart to use an attorney to help figure out the specific details, but it helps to understand the basic steps and procedures.
Transferring assets without court involvement
According to the California Courts, there are some aspects of a decedent’s estate that do not require court involvement when transferring assets. These include:
- Estates valued at less than $166,250
- Real estate via a beneficiary deed
- Houses owned by joint tenants
- Property held by living trusts
- Assets with named beneficiaries
All other assets go through probate, which involves the court and takes months or even years. According to the American Bar Association, the legal process begins with determining if the will is valid (if there is one) and the court naming an executor or administrator for the estate. This person or entity is responsible for a variety of tasks.
These include locating and evaluating the decedent’s assets, identifying beneficiaries, distributing assets to heirs, paying the estate’s debts and bills and filing tax returns for the estate. This job may be fairly easy if the estate is small and the will provides necessary details, or it may be more complicated and requires the assistance of professionals such as attorneys and accountants.