What does Probate Administration consist of?

Probate administration entails, at its most basic:

  • Submitting the Decedent’s will (if there is one) to the appropriate Probate Court (“the Court)”;
  • Obtaining Letters of administration (with or without a will) and an order for Probate;
  • Providing proper and timely Notice of Petition to administer the Decedent’s estate, and filing proof of same with the Court;
  • Attending the hearing on Petition, or telecourt appearance for same;
  • Filing Duties and Liabilities of Representative or Executor;
  • Obtaining a taxpayer identification numbers;
  • Notification to proper government agencies;
  • Obtaining and submitting proper documentation for the purpose of attaining authority over the Decedent’s assets;
  • Identifying and gaining control of the Decedent’s assets;
  • Maintaining the Decedent’s assets (maintaining the condition and safety of real and personal property; making appropriate investments; ensuring cash accounts are held in interest-bearing accounts);
  • Arranging preparation of final personal income tax returns, and for estate returns;
  • Preparing and submitting Inventory & Appraisal of Decedent’s date of death assets to probate referee;
  • Paying debts not requiring formal claims;
  • Approving or Rejecting creditor claims;
  • Filing and Inventory & Appraisal with the Court;
  • Keeping track of all income, receipts, costs and losses, and providing a formal accounting to the Court;
  • Preparing and submitting a Final Order with Accounting and Proposed Distribution, which also requires giving proper notice to beneficiaries and other necessary parties, and filing Proof of same;
  • Determining and paying statutorily calculated fees for attorney and representative/executor;
  • Attending hearing or telecourt on same;
  • Making court-ordered distributions and obtaining Receipts;
  • Filing Receipts;
  • Filing Petition for Discharge of Representative or Executor;

In addition to these tasks, handling Objections to, e.g., the Petition for Probate, or to a Claim rejection or to the Proposed Final distribution, may be necessary.  Contested proceedings can make the probate process exponentially more complicated.  Further, it may be necessary to liquidate some assets to pay claims or otherwise maintain other probate property; court approval may be necessary for such actions.  Under some circumstances, the personal representative/executor may also be required to obtain a bond.

Moreover, several ancillary tasks are usually necessary as the executor, including locating life insurance and retirement accounts and notifying the holders of the Decedent’s death.  Not all property is subject to probate; the executor or representative may still be liable for proper administration and distribution of this property, however.

Probate administration is a complicated, time-consuming process which is fraught with potential personal liability for the representative/executor.  It is best handled by professionals who know the nuances of the process and local Court system, and who have the resources to properly handle it.

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