When you serve as the executor of a will, you’ll need to grapple with a lot of paperwork as you coordinate the distribution of assets and property. Rest assured that whatever step of the probate process you’re working through, there’s likely a form for it. We’ll go over some of the most important forms here.
Petition for Probate
The petition for probate form is central to the process of executing a will. Executors will complete the form with the appropriate probate court. By doing this, they can receive formal approval from the court to begin the probate process. Even if the deceased names you as executor in the will, you’ll still need to complete this form so the court can give you authority to move assets and spend money from the estate.
The actual process is that the executor submits a petition for probate, and then the court gives Letters Testamentary to the executor. Letters Testamentary is an official court document that bestows the authority to act on behalf of the decedent’s estate. Having it will allow you to pay debts, transfer assets to beneficiaries and otherwise manage the affairs of the estate.
Petition for Administration
There are plenty of instances where the deceased didn’t create a will. In other cases, the deceased created a will but didn’t name an executor. If you wish to serve as executor in one of these cases, you can file a petition for administration in the appropriate probate court. The probate court can appoint its own executor for the estate – what’s known as an administrator.
To appoint administrators, most probate courts have what’s called a priority of appointment. This is a list of people, descending in priority, who could be called upon to serve as administrator. Different states vary, but surviving spouses are typically given high priority, then children, then other family members. If you’re filing a petition for administration, but you’re not high on your court’s priority of appointment, then you’ll also need to obtain written waivers from the candidates with a higher priority than you.
Notice of Probate
When the probate process begins, the executor/administrator is required by law to notify all beneficiaries that they were included in the decedent’s will. The executor can do this by delivering a Notice of Probate in person or via first-class mail. This is also known as a Notice to Beneficiaries or a Notice to Heirs. If the executor is also the sole beneficiary, then this step is, of course, unnecessary.
Notice to Creditors
The Notice to Creditors must also inform all potential creditors of the decedent’s death. This is in case any of them want to make any sort of claim against the decedent’s estate. This is a necessary step to ensure that the executor pays off all debts connected to the estate. The standard practice is for the executor to publish this notice in the biggest newspaper where the probate is taking place. That way, potential creditors of which the executor isn’t aware will still have an opportunity to see it and make their claim if they need to.
Life Insurance Forms
If the decedent owned a life insurance policy, the executor will need to submit a life insurance claim. If you as the executor have the decedent’s policy number and other necessary information, then you can reach out to the insurance company to obtain and complete the necessary claim forms. The exact claims process will depend on the insurance company.
If you know that the deceased held a life insurance policy but you don’t know anything else, don’t give up. You can still reach out to the insurance company with a letter declaring that you are the executor of the deceased’s will and you’re looking for information about the pertinent life insurance policy. With this route, you will also likely need to include the death certificate and Letters Testamentary to prove your credibility.
The paperwork associated with the estate probate process is just one of the reasons why serving as a will’s executor can be a demanding job. That’s why estate planning attorneys can be helpful for executors handling complex estates.
If you are an executor, make sure you communicate with the appropriate probate court to ensure you’re filing or sending all the necessary forms at the correct times. If you’re creating a will, make sure to keep detailed but concise records of your financial holdings and obligations. That way, your executor will have an easier time locating your assets and creditors.
Tips for Planning Your Estate
- Creating a will is just one of the moves you should make as you enter your golden years. Others include taking out life insurance policies, setting up trusts, exploring long-term care policies and creating advance directives to handle potential end-of-life medical issues. Working with a financial advisor can help ensure you’ve covered all your bases and can enjoy your retirement without fretting.
- Before you start diving into your estate, you first need to check that you’ve got enough in the piggy bank for retirement. Our retirement calculator can help you see if you’re on track for your retirement goals or if you need to start saving more.
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