After the death of a loved one, it can be difficult to focus on the legal matters that have to be attended to. One of the first things that happens, however, is that the estate goes into probate. Probate is a legal term that means a judge will be deciding how the estate is divided among heirs.
In cases where the deceased left a will, the probate process is relatively quick. In fact, many states do not even require the estate to go through the probate process, instead simply requiring the executer to file paperwork showing that the estate was divided by the terms of the will.
In cases where there is no will, however, the state has to divide the estate in accordance with the law. This can mean the probate process is longer. While the exact process will vary by state, typically there is a time in which potential heirs must come forward, followed by another length of time during which the judge must decide what to do with the assets that were left behind.
In many cases, a judge must appoint an officer of the court to determine what assets make up the estate. Depending on the size and complexity of the case, this process can take several days or several months. Identifying claimants on the estate can also be simple or complicated, depending on the debts of the estate and the potential number of heirs.
After all assets, claims, and heirs have been identified, the probate judge must then determine what, if any, taxes are to be paid. After that, the judge will pay claims made by hospitals, funeral homes, and other creditors. Only after these debts are paid will the judge decide how to divide the rest of the estate among the heirs.
If you're looking for a family law or estate planning attorney, contact Gerkin & Decker today!