Inheriting assets seems straightforward, but it can be more complicated than you think. When a person dies, assets with named beneficiaries and co-owners can go through a simplified process. However, some assets have no exact recipients, leaving decisions about estate distribution up in the air. These cases can go to probate court considering other factors, such as the type of assets involved, the estate’s worth and the people claiming it.
Even so, any estate worth over $166,250 goes through probate. If the estate is not qualified for a simplified process, you must start a case and follow the next steps.
Before starting a probate case
Things can get challenging even before filing a petition for probate. First, you need to figure out which forms to use. Then, whoever has the will must bring it to the probate court clerk’s office not exceeding 30 days from the person’s death.
Next, a petitioner must begin the process by filing a petition for probate. You will need additional paperwork to start the case. Fortunately, legal counsel can help you figure out the documents and forms you must submit.
After filing the petition
Once your file the case, you can expect to go through the following steps:
- You will receive a hearing date. A court probate examiner will review the case before the hearing. Surviving family members and whoever has a right to a portion of the estate can attend.
- A court-appointed representative will inventory the estate with help from a probate referee who can put a value on nonmonetary assets.
- The representative will coordinate with creditors to pay off any debts.
- Personal income tax returns will be filed.
- The court will sort out who will receive which assets or property.
- The representative will submit a final plan and accounting report to the court.
- Finally, the court will relieve the representative of other duties.
The court may ask for more paperwork showing the estate’s distribution details. It typically takes around nine months to over a year to finish, which can be significantly longer than the simplified process.