What is probate administration?

Probate is the legal process that the court goes through in order to distribute the estate of a deceased individual. The definition of “probate administration” is the successful management and distribution of the deceased’s assets. The probate process applies to the estate of individuals with a will as well as those without.

If the deceased left behind a will, probate administration is conducted by an executor, an individual chosen by the testator, or person that wrote the will, to ensure that their estate is disposed of according to the instructions outlined in their will.

When an individual dies without a will, it is called dying “intestate.”  In these types of situations, the probate process begins with the appointment of an administrator whose job is to oversee the estate of the deceased. Hiring an attorney to assist the administrator as they go through the probate process is strongly advised when a person dies intestate.

The probate administration process typically includes the following steps:

  • If a will exists, filing it with the probate court
  • The named executor or administrator must identify and notify beneficiaries, heirs, creditors, and the public about the death of the individual in question and about the creation of the probate estate
  • Inventory and appraise all assets/property to determine the estate’s value
  • Pay estate taxes, if necessary, settle any outstanding debts, and distribute remaining assets to heirs/beneficiaries.

Do you need an attorney?

There are two practice areas with respect to estate planning law. A probate attorney focuses on what happens to the deceased’s estate after they’ve died vs. an estate planning attorney who works with an individual to put an estate plan into place before death.

While you are not required by law to enlist the services of an attorney for probate, if you’re acting as executor or administrator, it may be in your best interest to do so because the process of probate administration could become complicated, especially if the deceased died intestate.

It’s important to have legal guidance from an attorney who is knowledgeable when it comes to state laws governing the probate process in general and specifically, the laws as they apply to intestate succession.

Getting the guidance you need

The role of a probate attorney is to provide legal guidance throughout the probate process and subsequent administration of the deceased’s estate. Some of the things that a probate attorney can assist with include:

  • Transferring real estate and other assets to beneficiaries
  • Paying outstanding debts
  • Collecting proceeds from any life insurance policies of the deceased
  • Resolving tax issues, including incomes tax, federal estate tax, and estate tax return issues
  • Preparing and filing legal documents that are required by the probate court

At the Leo Law Office, our focus is on trust and estate litigation. We can help you navigate the probate administration process whether you’re an executor, trustee, or personal representative.