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    Probate in a Nutshell

    By Jay Greene, Esq., CPA–

    Did you ever stop to think about what happens after a loved one’s funeral? Life continues and you might have to go back to work because bereavement leave has run out. Most people do not know what happens at this point, especially in regard to the assets and debts of the deceased. How this is handled now depends on the plans the deceased made when they were alive, and for some that might mean probate. For some family members, it will be the first time they heard about probate.

    In this article, we will discuss what probate is, how it works, and what you should expect.

    What is probate?

    The probate process is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person. It is the legal process of transferring the assets of a deceased person to their rightful heirs, beneficiaries, or even creditors. Probate is supervised by a court and can be a lengthy, complicated, and often stressful process, depending on the estate.

    What is the probate process?

    The probate process begins with the filing of the deceased person’s will in the probate court and appointment of an executor. If the deceased person did not have a will, then it is up to the court to appoint an administrator to handle the estate. The administrator or executor handles gathering the deceased person’s assets, paying any debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets according to the instructions in the will or, if there is no will, according to the laws of the state.

    The probate process can take several months or even years to complete. During the probate process, the administrator or executor must keep an accurate record of all transactions related to the estate. This includes filing the necessary tax returns and keeping track of all expenses and income related to the estate. 

    Once the probate process is complete, the administrator or executor must file a final report with the court. The report must include all financial transactions related to the estate. The probate court will review and determine if they approve all transactions before the assets can be distributed to the beneficiaries.

    It is important to consult with a qualified attorney to make sure that all the legal requirements are met. The process must be correctly followed and adhered to in order to reduce additional expenses, stress, and time delays.

    What makes probate complex and time-consuming?

    If you are appointed as an administrator or executor of a deceased person’s estate, you will need to identify and locate all the assets of the deceased.

    The first step in identifying the assets of the deceased is to make an inventory of the deceased person’s property. This includes any real estate, bank accounts, investments, artwork, jewelry, vehicles, and other tangible assets. You should also make a list of any life insurance policies, pension plans, and annuities that the deceased had.

    The next step is to hire a professional to appraise and determine the value of the assets. You should also collect any documentation relevant to the assets, such as deeds, titles, or other proof of ownership.

    You will need to look for and identify any debts or liabilities that the deceased may have had. This includes credit cards, loans, mortgages, liens, and any other debts that may have been outstanding. Make sure to also check for any taxes that may be due, such as income tax, property tax, estate tax, or gift tax.

    Finally, you will make a list of all the beneficiaries of the estate. This includes any family members, friends, or other individuals whom the deceased may have left assets to. Make sure to include the contact information for each beneficiary. This will make it easier to contact them when the time comes to divide the assets.

    As discussed, identifying the assets of the deceased is an important part of the probate process. Once you have a complete list of the assets and liabilities, you can begin the process of dividing them among the beneficiaries.

    There can be any number of complications during the probate process. This process and can be avoided and or minimized by consulting an estate planning attorney. The goal is to minimize the amount of court interference, cut down timely delays, and save yourself from unnecessary expenses. When you are still mourning the loss of a loved one, there are other things you need to be handling.

    Statements In Compliance with California Rules of Professional Conduct: The materials in this article have been prepared by Attorney Jay Greene for educational purposes only and are not legal advice. This information does not create an attorney-client relationship. Individuals should consult with an estate planning and elder law attorney for up-to-date information for their individual plans.

    Jay Greene, Attorney, CPA, is the founder of Greene Estate, Probate, & Elder Law Firm based in San Francisco, and is focused on helping LGBT individuals, couples, and families plan for their future, protect their assets, and preserve their wealth. For more information and to schedule an assessment, visit:

    Trust Essentials
    Published on March 23, 2023