Most people have heard of probate but are usually unfamiliar with the probate process itself. The process starts when a person files a petition for administration with the court and files the original last will and testament. The person who files is usually a beneficiary or the person who seeks appointment as personal representative. After the petition is filed, the court will appoint a personal representative. The personal representative is the individual who is in charge of administering the estate. Typically, the person appointed in the last will and testament will be appointed by the court.
The personal representative is then responsible for sending a notice of administration to all of the beneficiaries. This alerts the beneficiaries to the fact that a probate case is pending and advises them as to which court the case is in and who is the personal representative. The beneficiaries then have a specific period to object to the probate. The beneficiaries can object to the venue, the appointment of the personal representative or can seek have the last will and testament excluded from the probate.
The personal representative will also file a verified inventory which lists all of the assets which are in the estate.
The personal representative then sends a notice to the creditors. Any known creditors will receive a notice send to the them by certified mail, return receipt. The personal representative will cause to have a notice published in the newspaper in the place where the probate is taking place. The notice will run for two weeks. The creditors then have a period of time to file claims with the court. The personal representative has to evaluate any claims to determine if they should be paid or challenged.
Once all creditors claims are paid or dealt with, the personal representative sends to the beneficiaries a final accounting and petition for discharge. The final accounting shows all of the income earned by the estate and the expenses paid. The Petition for Discharge includes a plan of distribution which shows how the personal representative plans to divide the estate amongst the beneficiaries. Again, the beneficiaries have a chance to challenge the proposed distribution. If there are no objections, the beneficiaries receive their inheritances and the personal representative is discharged by the court.