When a person dies without a will or there are questions regarding its validity, the person's estate will move to probate. This process has many different components, from proving that a will is indeed valid to settling any remaining debt. The Balance offers the following information on what families can expect during a probate hearing.
When a will is available, the first step is to submit it to the court. There are few different methods of proving its validity, including the provision of an affidavit that states that witnesses were present when the deceased actually signed the will. If this document is not available, any witnesses to the signing will be asked to testify that the deceased signed the exact will submitted to the court.
If an executor is named within the will, he or she will be responsible for locating assets. While this process can be simple in some cases if the deceased owned a lot of property in different states it can be quite complex. Fees associated with property must also be taken care of, such as taxes and mortgage payment. The executor must also take physical possession of any other items named in the will, such as vehicles or antiques.
If money is still owed, the executor must also find and notify creditors of the person's death. At this point will be up to each creditor to submit claims, which must then be paid with money from the estate. Once all debt has been settled, the executor can then distribute the remaining assets to heirs. The court must approve this step after the executor submits a detailed accounting of all the preceding transactions.