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With the death of a loved one comes an avalanche of responsibilities that can be hard to navigate, especially in the midst of grief. In this difficult moment, it’s important to have someone on your side that can help answer questions and guide you through the long legal process that accompanies a loved one’s passing.
This legal process can be even more difficult when a will is involved. At Heban, Murphree & Lewandowski, LLC, we take the time to answer your questions and navigate the law during a stressful time. Today, we’re here to answer your questions about wills and their execution.
This seemingly simple task can be more complex if the will wasn’t filed with an attorney. A will can often be found in a safe at home or at a probate court. There may be several versions of a will, so make sure the most recent is filed.
If you want to know when a will is executed, here’s the short answer—processing an inheritance is one of the last tasks put before the executor of a probate estate. The elaborate answer tells us how we get to that point and what you should expect.
Before a will can be executed, probate must take place. This legal process begins once the deceased passes. This process encompasses a number of steps. The first step is verifying that the deceased has a valid, authentic will. This is usually completed without difficulty. The will is filed and the court can decide to put it into effect. The executor of the will is in charge of this process. Because most states have self-proving wills, no trail or evidence is required.
Next, heirs and beneficiaries are notified. During this time, a will can be contested if any parties believe it is not valid. If no issues are brought forth, the process of identifying and inventorying the deceased individual’s belongings will begin. Assets are appraised and debts are reported so that a final value can be attributed to the estate.
State probates use what is called a date-of-death value that determines the deceased’s asset value. The court will require an all-inclusive list of the property owned by the deceased. That property must be paired with its date-of-death appraised value. If a beneficiary sells any portion of their inheritance, that value is used to calculate the capital gains tax.
Before the probate process can continue on, all debts must come to a close. This includes ongoing administration expenses for an estate or trust. These final bill collectors also include federal and state estate tax returns and inheritance taxes. Estates typically cannot close when taxes are owed without written consent from a taxing authority.
All potential creditors are required to be informed by the estate executors. This generally means a newspaper notice must be made with instructions on how to make a claim to the estate for debts owed. This notice must be in addition to notices sent out to debts that the estate is aware of.
Generally, three to nine months are given, depending on the state’s laws, for claims to be made. The estate is then given a chance to consider whether or not a claim should be paid. If a decision cannot be made, a court will intervene. If the courts intervene, additional inheritance delays will occur.
The distribution step in the estate process is the final step for a reason. This prevents any liability toward executors or trustees for unpaid bills, taxes, or other debts. Once the final petition is filed, the assets in the account are distributed by the terms indicated in the final will.
The entire probate process can be delayed for a number of reasons. For instance, if the initial court filing runs into document verification issues, the process can slow. That’s why it’s important to file immediately and with the help of a law firm experienced with the probate process like HML.
If the will is contested by a beneficiary, there can be a substantial delay. Furthermore, the larger and more valuable the estate, the more likely it will be delayed during probate. Additional creditors and debts can add up to more paperwork and long wait times.
An experienced law firm can help ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible. With the right help, a will can be processed and distributed within a few months for a simple estate, or a year for a complex estate or trust.