What is the Probate Process?

When someone passes, it is normal for their loved ones to experience waves of heavy emotion and grief. In the midst of this emotionally charged time, the family of the deceased must go through the probate process. The probate process is vital to ensure that the deceased loved one’s wishes are honored after their passing. Here, wills and probate attorney Douglas C. Lauenstein discusses the process of probate and how the distribution of the estate is delegated to the rightful beneficiaries.

Overview of the Probate Process 

Probate is a formal legal process that gives recognition to a last will and testament and appoints a Personal Representative to distribute the assets to the designated beneficiaries. Probate law varies from state to state, so it is important to seek legal counsel in regards to starting the probate process. In Maryland, for example, the size of the estate will help determine how much supervision is needed throughout the probate process, and the Personal Representative must obtain a court order authorizing the distribution of assets before formally closing the estate. If the deceased did not leave a sill, probate is still required. An estate without a will is called an intestate estate. While starting the probate process is not an easy task, being proactive by creating a will and outlining your assets will streamline the probate process. This will help your loved ones avoid confusion and frustration when delegating assets after your death. 

Authentication Process for Last Will and Testament 

When beginning probate, the last will and testament of the deceased must be authenticated before the estate can be properly divided among beneficiaries. If the deceased left a will, it is important to provide this will to the court as soon as possible in order for the judge to validate that it is drafted correctly. This authentication process also provides an opportunity for other family members or loved ones to provide documentation of a different updated will, as well as give any concerned family members a chance to object to the appointment of the designated Personal Representative or contest the validity of the Will. Generally, the court relies on witnesses to attest that the will provided is witnessed correctly. Once approved, the court issues a “letters testamentary” to the Personal Representative. This is a legal document that allows the Personal Representative to administer the estate.

Payment of Final Bills and Distribution of Estate 

After the Personal Representative has gained approval from the court to begin administration of the deceased individual’s estate, they must also enter the process of evaluating assets and paying final bills. In this process, the individual’s assets and personal property such as their home, car and other valuables are appraised and condensed into a document that outlines the full value of their estate. Additionally, the executor must then file tax returns on behalf of the deceased, as well as pay any legally enforceable bills such as debts, loans and medical bills. After these payments are made, the estate may be distributed among beneficiaries pursuant to a court order. To ease the burden on family members after your passing, outlining your debts can help avoid stress for Personal Representatives who would otherwise have to search for these debts after your passing. 

See How Wills and Probate Attorney Douglas C. Lauenstein Can Help You 

Grieving the loss of a loved one can be an extremely difficult and emotional process, leading individuals to feel overwhelmed with how to proceed after their loved one’s death. Understanding the probate process in its entirety can help streamline the process for both courts and the family, and ensure that the deceased individual’s wishes are properly carried out. To learn how qualified attorney, Douglas C. Lauenstein, can help you and your family navigate the complex probate process, contact our Baltimore County office today