Acting as the executor for a loved one’s estate is a big deal. You have the task of carrying out someone’s final wishes. It is understandable if you are feeling a little overwhelmed at this thought, especially when it comes to dealing with probate.
There are a lot of misconceptions about what probate is. Some people in Georgia think of it as a process that only stands in the way of actually getting things done. Others think of it as an exceptionally complicated process that will be impossible to navigate. Neither of these are true.
What is probate?
At its most basic, probate is a process that addresses how property is transferred after a person’s death. The court will supervise this process, so, as an executor, you should expect to make at least a few appearances in court. You will have a number of matters to attend to, including:
- Collecting probate property
- Collecting dividends, right to income and more
- Paying off the estate’s debts, taxes and claims
- Settling disputes
- Transferring or distributing property to heirs
Probate can be either uncontested or contested. Contested probate occurs when someone — quite often a disgruntled heir — is unhappy with the terms of the will or other aspect of the estate plan. For example, an heir might believe that he or she deserves a larger inheritance than the decedent — the person who created the will.
What is probate property?
Some property transfers immediately upon death. Wills do not include all assets, however, and some will instead transfer by ownership or designation. Insurance policies and bank accounts with “payable on death” designations are two common examples.
Probate property are assets that do not transfer immediately upon a person’s death. This property has to go through the probate process, and a will often addresses it. You might have heard the phrase “probating a will,” which refers to the process of collecting, verifying and distributing assets.
Why am I the executor?
There are two different reasons why you might be acting as an executor. The first is that your loved one might have specifically chosen you to act as executor. If your loved one did not name an executor, then the court likely stepped in and chose you after your loved one’s death.
Just because probate is a court-supervised process does not mean that it is easy. There are a number of different ways that things can go wrong, from misplacing documents to dealing with disgruntled heirs. While this might seem like an impossible situation to deal with, many executors find it helpful to learn as much as possible about the probate process.