Probate is the court-supervised process of gathering a deceased person's assets and distributing them to creditors and heirs. Every State has its own rules about the documents it requires, what they must contain, and when they must be filed. Bearing in mind that no estate is perfectly typical, here is an outline of the probate process:
You begin the probate process by asking the Court to officially make you Personal Representative (PR) (formerly called an Executor or Administrator) If you end up acting as PR, you'll need to:
* File a request (called a Petition or Application) for probate You will also need to file the original Will (if there is one) with the Court.
* Publish a notice of the probate in a local newspaper according to court rules. Mail notices to creditors you know about.
* Mail the notice to beneficiaries and heirs, as required by the court.
* File proof that you properly published and mailed the notice.
* Post a bond (if required by the court), which protects the estate from any losses you cause (up to a certain dollar amount). The amount of the bond depends on the size of the estate.
* Prove the Will's validity by providing statements from one or more witnesses to the will. This is often done by submitting the "self-proving affidavit" that was signed by the witness in front of a notary at the time the will was signed.
ADMINISTERING THE ESTATE.
As PR, you're in charge of keeping estate property safe during the probate process. You will prepare a list of the Decedent's assets and, if necessary, get assets appraised. You'll need to:
* Get an employer identification number for the estate from the IRS.
* Notify the state health department of the death.
* Open an estate bank account.
* Arrange for preparation of income tax returns.
* Prepare an inventory and appraisal of estate assets.
* Mail a notice to creditors and pay debts.
* If required, file a federal estate tax return within 9 months after death. (Most estates are not large enough to owe federal estate tax).
* If required, file a state inheritance tax return, usually within 9 months after death. (Fewer than half the states impose their own tax.)
CLOSING THE ESTATE.
When the creditor's claim period has passed, you've paid debts and filed all necessary tax returns, and any disputes have been settled, you're ready to distribute all remaining property to the beneficiaries.
If you have questions about administering a Decedent's estate, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment. We proudly serve clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.