An estate is the money and property owned by an individual at the time of death. This includes real estate, cash, stocks and other assets the person owns or has a controlling interest in.
As part of the estate planning process, a person chooses an executor to oversee the distribution of the assets upon death.
The probate process
Probate is the legal term for administering a person’s estate after death. The executor submits the will to the probate court to prove the will’s validity.
Once the court approves the will, the executor can begin dividing assets and paying debts.
Assets and debts
Having a clearly written will may make the executor’s job easier. A well-crafted will should include:
- Bank and investment accounts
- Insurance policies
- Safe-deposit box information
The will should also list debts such as those for house mortgages, car loans and credit cards. The executor should not assume the assets and debts listed in the will are all there is. This may involve some investigation on the executor’s part to confirm everything the decedent acquired.
The estate has the responsibility of paying all outstanding debts. To provide an opportunity for unknown creditors to file a claim, the executor must place a notice in the county’s newspaper or at the county courthouse. The estate is also liable for any taxes.
After asset distribution and debt payments, the executor must file the final accounting with the Clerk of Court. The executor must also present receipts from beneficiaries for the amounts distributed.