Probate is a process many people in Wheaton have to deal with on behalf of a loved one. While the concept is straightforward, the legal requirements and court filings often make the Wheaton probate process challenging to navigate without assistance from an experienced probate lawyer.
Overall, probate is designed to ensure that when someone dies, their debts are paid, and their remaining property is delivered to the people legally entitled to receive it. The legal requirements involved in proving that these tasks have been accomplished is what makes the Wheaton probate process so complex.
The first stage in the process of administering an estate is to assess the situation. If the deceased person left a will, it is necessary to locate the original and determine whether the person designated to serve as executor or personal representative is still willing and able to serve in that role. The will should be filed with the court within 30 days of the death if possible.
If there is no will, the court needs to appoint an individual to act as the representative of the estate. That role may be filled by a family member or any competent adult. It is best if family members are able to agree on the choice of representative because litigation over the role is costly.
In addition to filing the will and identifying the individual who would manage the estate, it is also necessary to gather documents and assess property as part of the initial Wheaton probate process. If there is property considered “perishable”, steps need to be taken to preserve those assets. This is particularly important if a family business is involved.
Even if a will has nominated a qualified individual to serve as executor, that person still needs to file a petition in court to receive formal authority to undertake the tasks associated with administering the estate. This authority is known as Letters of Office. In addition to filing a petition, the estate representative needs to file an oath and possibly a bond of representative. Other documents to be filed at this time in the Wheaton probate process include an Affidavit of Heirship and a draft order declaring heirship. If the court finds the will and other documents in order, it then issues orders allowing estate administration to proceed.
All creditors of the estate need to receive appropriate notice as part of the Wheaton probate process. The notice should give them sufficient time to file a claim against the estate. It is important to follow legal requirements regarding notice to creditors.
The executor should inventory all the assets of the estate and compile a list of obligations, including funeral expenses and taxes owed. If the estate does not have enough property to satisfy all debts, the law specifies in which order debts are to be paid. The executor would be responsible for ensuring that the estate files a tax return and pays appropriate taxes.
Only after all debts are satisfied might the executor begin the process of distributing assets according to the terms of the will. If there is no will, the laws of intestate succession dictate how the property is to be divided among legal heirs.
The executor needs to prepare a final accounting in accordance with legal guidelines in the concluding stages of the Wheaton probate process. Then the estate is able to be closed.
At each stage in the probate process, it is necessary to fulfill certain requirements established by state or federal law. Failure to comply with requirements or to manage property appropriately could subject an executor to personal liability. Working with an experienced probate attorney during the process could prevent missteps and help lead to an efficient resolution of issues.