Probate is a term for the process of legally determining the validity and authenticity of a will. Through the process of probate, legal title is passed from the individual who is deceased to the beneficiary. There are several things that will not go through probate such as beneficiary rights of a retirement plan, life insurance, and a few other legal instruments.
Following are the steps you will need to take in order to probate a will:
1) First of all, you must get the will in your hands. Depending on where the deceased individual has stored the will, this could be very easy or quite difficult. He/she could have it stashed in a desk drawer, at his/her attorney’s office, in a safe deposit box at the bank or a safe at home, or even at a friend’s house.
2) Next, you need to figure out whether or not they owned any real property. This refers to anything that is attached to the ground or even the ground (land) itself. All of the other things owned by the individual is referred to as personal property.
3) Now that you have found the will and determined any real property, you must find out where your state probates wills. There are some states that do have probate courts. However, some states do not and the wills are handled in the Circuit Courts.
4) Make sure that you are aware of any assets owned by the deceased person. Go to the post office and have the mail redirected to your home so that you can be alerted to important documents such as mortgages, retirement updates, car payments, and more. Also, consider searching the house for a place that the individual kept all of their important documents.
5) If the deceased individual did not appoint an executor or administrator, you can request that one be appointed. This is the person that holds fiduciary responsibility for the assets of the deceased individual.
6) Make an appointment with the Probate or Circuit court- which ever one is appropriate. Make sure that you bring with you a list of assets as well as their approximate value, the original will, and a death certificate.
7) If necessary, get some legal advice from an estate planning attorney or even the court clerk. You should know that the clerk is considered the gatekeeper of the court. They can be a very valuable resource, so make sure that you get off on the right foot with them.