Losing a loved one can be stressful and grieving can be emotionally taxing on you and your family. Unfortunately, life moves on in the midst of the grieving process and there are many things that you may have to worry about after the loss of a loved one. The probate and estate administration process can be overwhelming because there are many steps to follow in the probate process. Executors and personal representatives risk personal liability if the estate is mishandled.
While you may have heard the term associated with the estate planning process, many wonder what exactly probate is and what happens during the process. In simple terms, probate is the legal process during which a Will is reviewed to make sure that it is valid. After it is determined that the Will is indeed valid, probate also refers to the distribution of the deceased person’s estate to the proper beneficiaries. It is important to note that the probate process varies from state-to-state; therefore, how your Will is handled following your death will depend on what state you live in.
In New York State, the probate process begins when the Will of a deceased individual, also known as a decedent, is determined to be valid or not. The process can become quite complicated if the decedent did not have a Will.
If the court determines that the Will is indeed valid, Letters Testamentary will be issued to the Executor. Letters Testamentary are documents issued by the probate court that allow the Executor to enforce the terms of the decedent’s Will. This process is referred to as estate administration. The Executor must give notice of the probate proceeding to the decedent’s beneficiaries and next of kin. This will give these individuals the opportunity to dispute the Will if they choose to do so, provided that they do not waive those rights.
If the decedent did not have a Will, he or she is considered to be “intestate”. When this is the case, the decedent’s Will is subject to intestate succession laws, which allow for only certain close relatives to inherit the assets of the decedent.
In Virginia, the probate process begins with the Executor going to the circuit court in the county where the decedent lived. If the decedent was living in an assisted living facility at the time of his or her death, the Executor must go to the circuit court in the county where the decedent previously lived before going into assisted living.
In Virginia, the Executor must bring the following to the circuit court:
The circuit court will also have the Executor file a list of heirs if there is no Will. In addition, if the Will is not self-proving, meaning it includes a signed affidavit by the Will-maker and witnesses, then one of the two witnesses from the signing of the Will need to appear in court.
If there is no Will, the probate court will appoint an Administrator. The Administrator serves a similar purpose as the Executor. In Virginia, any person who inherits from the decedent can be named Administrator.
At Monteleon Law Group, we simplify and streamline the probate process so we can help walk our clients through the entire process without any additional grief. We understand that the probate process may also bring up other legal issues that are involved with the estate – inheritance and estate tax, creditor’s issues, Medicaid estate recovery, etc.
Let us help relieve the burden of the probate process. Give us a call today to set up your free consultation.