Benefits of Probate
Why Probate Can be a Positive Thing
When someone dies, often times their estate will have to pass through a legal procedure called probate. Probate is a court-supervised process by which a purported will is proven, and this takes place in the Surrogate's Office. The person in possession of the will can open probate proceedings after the 11th day after the person's death. If the person died with a
will (testate), then the executor is the person named in the will and he or she will be responsible for administrating the estate. If the person died without a will, then the court will appoint an administrator.
As a beneficiary your initial reaction may be to feel discouraged when you find out how probate is a long, drawn-out court process. However, probate serves many important functions. Probate begins by establishing the genuineness of the will, and this is done by the Surrogate Court in the county where the decedent lived at the time of his or her death.
Court-Monitored Functions of the Executor
The executor is responsible for determining and marshalling all assets of the estate and they will have to open a separate estate checking account in which bills will be paid. The executor is responsible for all debts, last illness expenses, inheritance and estate taxes, and administrative expenses. The executor is also responsible for filing the appropriate state and federal tax forms and paying any taxes that are due.
The executor is required to prepare an accounting of the estate assets and disbursements and the proposed distribution of such assets, which the beneficiaries may approve informally. However, the court approves the final accounting.
The executor is responsible for distributing the estate in a timely manner and in accordance with the terms set forth in the will. If there was no will, then the estate must be distributed according to the state's intestate succession laws. Essentially, probate is an often necessary legal proceeding that ensures that estates are distributed according to the directions in the will or according to the state's laws of intestate succession.
Beneficiaries who might be concerned about an executor's suitability to perform these duties can take comfort in the fact that the court is on alert for any dishonorable or unethical conduct. If a beneficiary has any disagreements with how an executor is performing his or her functions, then the beneficiary has legal remedies available at their disposal which can contest a will and petition the court to have the executor removed from his or her post.
For more information about probate, don't hesitate to contact me, your Haddon Heights probate attorney at Harris Law Offices by calling (856) 681-0429 for a free consultation.