For some time after the death of a loved one, most people experience a wide range of heightened emotions. If you are currently going through this emotional time period, the last thing you probably want to do is focus on the legal ramifications of your loved one’s death. If you were appointed to be the Executor of the estate in the decedent’s Last Will and Testament, however, you will need to do just that, Moreover, time is of the essence when it comes to safeguarding your loved one’s estate, meaning you need to get started in your role as Executor as soon as possible. If you have never before served as an Executor, you may not know where or how to begin. To get you started, the Hartford probate attorneys at Nirenstein, Horowitz & Associates, P.C. explain some of the most common probate steps.
Over the course of a lifetime, almost everyone acquires assets that comprise their estate at the time of their death. Some people amass a huge estate that includes complex and valuable assets while other people own little more than their personal possessions at the time of death. Regardless of the size and value of assets owned by a decedent, those assets must be identified, valued, and passed down to the new owners. That is the primary purpose of the legal process known as probate. Before those assets are passed down, however, there are a number of steps an Executor must oversee during the probate process.
Common Probate Steps
Just as every person is unique, so is the estate every decedent leaves behind unique, making the probate process different for every estate as well. There are some common steps though, including:
- Initiating the probate process. As the Executor, you will need to open the probate of the estate by filing a petition, along with a certified copy of the death certificate and an original Last Will and Testament with the appropriate probate court.
- Completing the Certificate of Land Records. If the decedent owned real estate, the probate court will provide a Certificate for Land Records that the executor or administrator will record with the town clerk showing that the executor or administrator has been appointed.
- Inventorying, securing, and valuing assets. As soon as possible, you need to complete an inventory of the decedent’s assets, including both tangible and intangible assets. Assets must also be secured which may mean doing things such as closing a financial account or locking up real property. A date of death value will be required for all estate assets as well. For some assets, this may require you to secure the assistance of an appraiser.
- Notifying creditors and paying claims. All potential creditors of the estate must be notified that probate is underway. This is accomplished by publishing a notice in a local newspaper. As the Executor, you must review claims and pay all approved claims, according to priority, using estate assets.
- Prepare, file, and pay estate taxes. All estates are potentially subject to federal gift and estate taxes. Connecticut also imposes a state estate tax. You must file estate tax returns with both the state and federal government and pay any taxes due.
- Final accounting submitted. If required, you will need to submit a final accounting and proposed distribution with the probate court.
- Transfer assets to beneficiaries. Finally, you will need to prepare any documents necessary to legally transfer the remaining assets to the intended beneficiaries as listed in the decedent’s Last Will and Testament.
Most Executors retain the services of an experienced probate attorney to ensure that the estate moves through the probate process as efficiently and expediently as possible. If you choose to work with an attorney, your attorney will prepare and file the legal documents required during probate and will guide you through the entire process to ensure that costly mistakes are not made.
Contact Hartford Probate Attorneys
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about probate, contact the experienced Hartford probate attorneys at Nirenstein, Horowitz & Associates, P.C. by calling (860) 548-1000 to schedule an appointment.