How the Probate System Works
A Personal Representative (if there is a Will) or Personal Administrator [If there is no Will) must be appointed by the Court to carry out the business of the estate and pay the debts, taxes and expenses, and, in the end, see that the property is distributed to the rightful parties in interest. All of these functions are carried out under the supervision of the district court.Probate property generally includes any property owned by the deceased person in his /her name alone that does not have a named beneficiary (Le. solely owned bank accounts, security accounts and real property). Probate property must go through probate court. Nonprobate property includes property held in a trust, retirement accounts such as 401(k)s and iRAs, life insurance, pay-on-death [POD] bank accounts, transfer-on-death (TOD) security accounts and property held in joint tenancy. Nonprobate property does not go through probate court. If the deceased person had a Will, the person’s Will determines who receives the probate property. If the deceased person did not have a Will, the intestate laws of Descent and Distribution determine who receives the probate property. These steps and proceedings require preparing and filing numerous legal documents, publishing certain notices in a newspaper, holding district court hearings, securing appraisals of property, preparing interim and final income tax returns and any required gift and estate tax returns, providing an accounting of funds, making actual distribution of the property and receiving the final discharge of the personal representative by the district court. Our firm is experienced in these matters and will walk you through each step of the probate process.