What Happens at a Probate Court Hearing?

What Happens at a Probate Court Hearing?

Immediately following the death of a family member or friend who had you in their will, you must begin the probate court process. Understanding what happens in probate court, how to handle the necessary paperwork and what you need to do, such as attending hearings, can help you feel peace as you grieve your loved one.

What Is Probate Court?

A probate case is a legal process where the money of a person who recently passed away is assessed and processed. A probate court is the part of the judicial system that ensures the person’s debts get paid and assets are distributed appropriately, either according to their wishes or state law.

This procedure starts when the estate executor or personal representative files the probate petition in the county the person lived in. The entire process typically takes nine to 12 months but can take longer under certain circumstances. Several factors affect how long probate takes, but the most significant one is whether the deceased person has a will. In most cases, beneficiaries are not given cash or assets until taxes and debts are paid and the court approves the final distribution.

Key Probate Court Terms

If you’ll be involved in a probate case, you should know these terms:

  • Decedent: The person who passed away
  • Estate: The money and property the decedent left behind
  • Will: A legally binding document the decedent signed before their death that outlines their wishes
  • Heirs or beneficiaries: Individuals who will inherit part of the estate
  • Executor: The person the decedent designated to handle their estate
  • Personal representative or administrator: The person the court designates to handle the estate, typically the executor named in the will, but not always
  • Real property: Land or homes attached to land
  • Personal property: Movable property not attached to land
  • Inheritance: The cash and assets that an heir or beneficiary will receive after probate closes
  • Final distribution: The point where heirs or beneficiaries are able to receive their inheritances

How to Prepare for Probate

Because probate involves a significant amount of documentation and legal terms, you may wonder if you need to choose an executor, what information or documents you need, or what questions are asked at a probate hearing.

The deceased’s family can choose a representative until the court approves an executor. The documentation needed varies by each court but typically includes a certified copy of the death certificate and the original will — if there is one.

Here are some questions the judge might ask:

  • When did the deceased person pass away?
  • Who are the beneficiaries or heirs?
  • Is there a will? If so, is anyone challenging the will?
  • Are there disputes among the heirs?
  • Does the will name an executor?
  • Do you know the estate assets and their values?
  • Are there outstanding debts, including taxes?
  • Is there an active business?
  • Have the beneficiaries and heirs been notified of probate? Do they consent to probate administration?
  • Where does the petitioner live? Can the petitioner get a probate bond if they live in a different state?

The executor typically receives a case manager who will review the petition with them to help check that everything is in order before the first hearing. There are typically about two court hearings.

What Happens at the First Probate Court Hearing?

After the executor files the petition for probate, there is an initial probate court hearing. All heirs, creditors and other interested parties must be notified of the hearing. Someone, typically the executor, submits as much documentation as they can gather about the decedent and their estate.

Sometimes, the executor may not even need to go to the first hearing. The purpose of the first hearing is to get the order for probate and approve a personal representative. The judge will also usually outline the duties required of the executor.

probate hearing process

Grant of Probate

At the hearing, the judge decides if they can grant probate. The grant of probate, which allows the executor to perform their tasks, is often necessary to continue with the process. Some estates may not need to go through this step, though, depending on their size and type of assets. A judge may request a continuance if they need additional information, so be sure to acquire all the required data first.

Will Authentication and Executor Approval

If the deceased person had a will, the court will authenticate or validate it. This means they review the document to make sure it was created legally. Most states have laws regarding the specific language used, the document’s form and the number of witnesses.

The judge appoints a personal representative of the estate. This individual is typically the person named in the will as the executor. However, there may be cases where the executor does not want to be the representative, no one is named in the will or there is no will. There can also be cases where someone disputes the person named as executor. If so, the court will appoint a personal representative or administrator for the estate.

The executor has no authority until approved by the court. The approval comes within documents issued by the court. These documents are often referred to as the Letters of Administration. These letters authorize the executor to pay debts and sell or distribute assets on behalf of the decedent’s estate.

What Happens Next?

Once the court processes all the information and the judge appoints the personal representative, the individual can begin to fulfill their duties. The letters issued after the first hearing contain a list of required tasks for the estate representative. These tasks typically include:

  • Sending notices: The executor must notify any heirs or beneficiaries who weren’t notified before the first hearing. They must also notify creditors, such as utility providers or a mortgage lender.
  • Taking inventory: The executor will hire an appraiser to appraise all assets, including bank accounts, retirement funds and personal property. They must report this inventory to the probate court.
  • Settling debts: The executor may need to sell some assets to pay off existing debt. They may also need to transfer titles and file taxes.
  • Distributing assets: The executor distributes any remaining assets to the heirs or beneficiaries named in the will or specific accounts, such as for a life insurance policy.

The executor must hold on to any receipts and documents related to the tasks they completed. After completing all their duties, they file for final distribution, which prompts the second probate court hearing.

What Happens at the Second Probate Court Hearing?

The second and last hearing typically ends up being around nine months to a year after the first petition was filed.

Judge Approval

The personal representative or executor provides details of everything they did. The judge reviews their actions to ensure each item is in order and that the executor handled their tasks properly and on time. They check that taxes are paid, debts are settled and the will is being followed to the greatest extent. If the judge is satisfied, they will issue the final order.

Final Order

Lastly, the judge will close the estate and sign the order for distribution. At this point, any beneficiaries can receive the money and assets the decedent allotted to them. After that, the executor’s responsibility is over.

Contact IFC to Access Your Inheritance Immediately

Probate court can take a long time, even for regular cases. If there’s an issue, a probate case could last for longer than a year. Sometimes, the executor and beneficiaries may need cash before probate is over. This is where Inheritance Funding comes in.

We are the oldest and largest provider of inheritance cash advances. The process is simple and quick, and you don’t have to do anything after you receive the money. You can obtain cash to use however you’d like right away. It’s not an inheritance loan — you don’t have to pay anything back. We assess the estate and give you an advance of the money you would have received after the court closes probate.

You can receive money immediately. Our inheritance advance process is fast and easy. We start with an initial consultation to discuss the inheritance and how much you would like to access today. We then quickly gather any additional information needed from the probate court and the personal representative.

Once we’ve gathered the necessary information to confirm your inheritance, we approve and fund the advance as soon as that same day. You are guaranteed to receive the lowest fee in the industry. We then wait months or years for the estate to finally close and distribute money. We’re paid directly by the estate, and you receive any remainder of your inheritance.

If the estate closes and it’s not enough to pay us, we simply take the loss. This means there is no risk to you. Apply for a free quote right now to get started.

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