When an individual passes away, his or her relatives usually take on the duty of wrapping up final affairs, canceling services that are no longer needed and, most importantly, seeing to matters listed in the decedent’s will. One action that is often necessary is probate, and U.S. News notes that this process not only validates the will but also ensures that any outstanding debt is paid off before heirs receive any type of inheritance.
Those who enter probate may want to understand which individuals might have a hand in the process and why their presence is necessary.
The personal representative
This individual, who is sometimes called the executor, is responsible for carrying out the final wishes of the deceased, such as seeing to burial or cremation preferences and how to divide his or her assets among any beneficiaries named within the document. The personal representative also usually handles any financial business related to the deceased, such as speaking with bank and credit card company representatives to legally close out his or her accounts.
If the deceased had any large outstanding debts, the companies owed may send representatives to probate court to collect the money. Probate hearings are public, which means that debt collectors may appear and participate if they have proof of any outstanding financial obligations.
Probate often handles claims by people not named in the will who believe they have a claim over some of the deceased assets. Named beneficiaries may also attend the proceedings to protest these statements and to ensure their inheritance is handled properly.
Probate may take anywhere from a few months to over a year, depending on the size of the estate and any conflicts involved. While the process is often lengthy, it gives everyone involved the chance to make claims on the estate.