Estate planning and probate administration are much broader in scope than most people realize. This practice requires not only knowledge of the laws and practical aspects of estate planning, probate, and trust administration, but also knowledge of the laws governing business organizations, real estate, personal property, and taxes. Our trusts and estates attorneys have experience in all of these areas, enabling them to provide practical planning advice from a comprehensive, multifaceted perspective.
Timeline for Probate Process
Your role begins with an initial conference with a probate attorney to provide your attorney with information.
Your attorney will prepare pleadings and a fee agreement for your signature.
You will be asked to sign the initial pleadings and fee agreement and may need to obtain to signed renunciations or waivers and consents from other interested parties.
Your attorney will file pleadings and Will/Codicils (if any) with Probate Court. If filed in person (rather than by mail) you can usually expect to be appointed as Personal Representative (PR) by the Probate Court the same day.
Your attorney will send notices of appointment, fee agreement, and Will (if any) to interested parties (within 14 days of appointment).
Your attorney will send a notice to creditors to the legal newspaper in the county of the proceeding (date of publication begins the four month claim period).
Your attorney will send provide a separate notice to "known" creditors from a list of creditors you have provided. Usually this is sent approximately 30 days before the four-month claim period expires.
You and your attorney will obtain information and values (as of date of death) of assets (both probate and non-probate).
Your attorney will prepare and you will sign an Inventory of probate assets. Your attorney will send a copy of this inventory to interested parties within 91 days of your appointment.
If applicable, your attorney will send a Notice of Statutory Rights and Elections to the surviving spouse and/or minor children.
Your attorney will send a copy of the inventory to Probate Court disclosing the value of the probate assets for purposes of calculating the probate fee due.
You will be asked to pay a probate fee upon receipt of invoice from Probate Court (must be paid within one year of appointment of PR).
You will need to file the decedent's final income tax returns for all years prior to death and for the year of his or her death for income earned to the date of death. In addition, you may have to file fiduciary income tax returns for income earned after date of death through the date the estate is distributed.
If applicable (usually only in estates worth over $5 million) your attorney (or accountant) will prepare and file (and PR signs) Federal and State estate tax returns. You are responsible for paying any taxes due from the estate assets no later than nine months after date of death.
You and your attorney will dispute any questionable claims by sending a Notice of Disallowance to creditor within 63 days after presentment of the claim by the creditor.
You will pay any valid claims from the estate assets.
You and your attorney will prepare an Accounting and send a copy to the interested parties. You may also send a proposed distribution schedule.
You will distribute the balance of the probate estate to devisees or heirs (You can obtain receipts from them at that time or use canceled checks as proof of distribution).
You will sign and your attorney will send a copy of a "Sworn Statement" to close administration of the estate to interested parties.
Your attorney will file the Sworn Statement to close administration along with proofs of service (for Notice of Appointment, Publication, Attorney Fee Agreement, Inventory, Notice of Election, Accounting and Sworn Statement) with the Probate Court.
Unless someone objects within 30 days after filing sworn statement, the Probate Court will issue a Certificate of Completion and the estate administration is closed.