Inheritance of real estate often leads to probate hearings in a court. The purpose behind this is to get the court’s permission in carrying out the wishes in a will from the deceased. A probate hearing is also necessary to settle the estate owner’s dues toward creditors and stakeholders. But handling court proceedings after losing a loved one may not be as easy for all. Some people opt for appointed solicitors to handle their probate as executors, in an attempt to avoid such upset and pressure during this trying time. In this article, we will try to help you learn what happens at a probate hearing, right from the first stage until closure.
Role Of The Court In Probate
The court is crucial in following the honor of a will. In cases where there is no will available, the court might make room for the existing state laws to respect the descendants’ wishes. Apart from that, the court needs to attend appeals from the creditors and heirs for estate inheritance as well. Creditor claims may often be rejected by the appointed administrator. But that becomes a liability for the court to decide the legitimacy. The court will act as an overseer to review all evidence for such claim until completion of the probate. This is necessary to validate any existing estate will.
Stages Of Probate Hearing
Every hearing of the court for probate starts with a formal file of the petition. Once recorded, it is up to the court to set a date for hearing along with a notice for appearance to all concerned heirs to the case. This may include selected administrators, heirs, creditors, and alike whose names might be mentioned in the will.
Stage one of the hearing involves making contact with all the asset holders. Identification of stakeholders for this step takes time. It includes all possible banks, buildings, utilities, lenders for their request of valuation of the concerned assets. Inheritance tax comes next after all the needful income tax and inheritance tax has been considered on the calculated asset valuation.
The second stage of a probate hearing is usually about appointing an administrator for the estate. With an available will, a person can directly apply for a grant of probate. But when there is no will from the deceased, a person may apply for letters of administration instead. In both scenarios, the application needs to be accompanied by an inheritance tax form and a statement of truth for the administrators without a will. Any inheritance tax must be paid off compulsorily before someone can apply for the grant of probate or letter of administration to the court.
A copy of the grant of probate or letter of administration is released to all identified stakeholders during the third stage of a probate hearing. This is done with the purpose of releasing the estate funds. The court may release the fund thereafter to a solicitor acting as the executor, in their accounts. Simultaneous publication of a statutory advertisement through print media is a common practice as well, helping creditors and beneficiaries to come forward with claims. However, any such claim has to be made within 2 months from the date of the published advertisement. Estate funds can be distributed only after the clearance of any liabilities and debts involved. These can be taxes, administration fees, utility overdue, credit card debts, and funeral expenses.
In the subsequent probate hearings, the executor will need to file a petition to the court for the final distribution of estate funds. Depending on the size and complexity of an estate, it might take about 10 to 12 months after filing for probate for such a petition. A detailed statement needs to be submitted to the judge by the executors for proper utilization of estate funds, along with the petition. The court will review the same for meeting requirements as per the law. Once convinced with the statements and actions of the executor, the judge may sign the petition to initiate fund distribution. As a result of this, probate gets concluded and the estate will be closed.
- Is Probate Hearing Compulsory
Although normally an estate needs to go through a formal probate process and hearing for an inheritance, few exceptions might exist. For example, probate might be avoided if the assets of an estate are put under a trust. Moreover, small estates might qualify for informal probate or small estate administration where the court has minimum involvement. A necessary hearing related to the appointment of an executor is a major contribution of the court in such proceedings. Otherwise, the court maintains a more informal and lenient approach towards small estate administrations.