When someone passes away, family members can be overcome with grief, especially if the death is sudden or unexpected. It can be difficult to function, made even more so because there are so many things that must be handled after a loved one dies.
If a person has taken the right steps to provide for their family, then they will have some sort of estate plan in place. At the very least, this will include a will or a living trust, as well as a durable plan of attorney and a medical power of attorney document.
Without a living trust in place, which allows for the easy transfer of assets from a decedent to his or her heirs, an estate will need to go through the probate process. This is a legal process that ensures a person's assets are disbursed properly to creditors and heirs in accordance with the person's wishes.
The Steps Involved in Probate
After an executor for the estate has been identified, they will begin the process of going through probate in Arlington. An executor is often a family member or trusted friend, or it can be an attorney, all of whom have a solemn duty to do the probate work in a timely and impartial manner.
Specifically, there are many steps that an executor will need to take during probate:
- Identify and secure the assets of the estate
- Work with life insurance companies to make sure that policies are paid
- Pay all bills and debts of the estate
- Prep and file tax documents required by the probate court
- Resolve any other tax issues
- Determine if estate or inheritance taxes are due
- Determine which heirs will receive which of the estate's assets
- Transfer those assets to the appropriate beneficiaries
- Fairly and equitably disburse remaining assets in accordance with the decedent's wishes
All of these issues are made much easier when a will exists. However, in those cases where there is no will, beneficiaries may dispute how the disbursement of assets are being handled. When this happens, one or more of the beneficiaries may seek settlement through litigation. While this is unfortunate, it actually can be quite common. Under these circumstances, the best bet may be to hire an estate attorney and attempt to mediate the issues, instead of relying on litigation and letting a court decide instead.
The Hixson Law Firm serves clients in Mansfield, Arlington, Grand Prairie and other nearby Texas communities.