Probate has come to mean not just proving the validity of a Last Will and Testament but the entire administrative process involving the collecting of assets, payment of debts and the passing of a deceased person’s legal title to property to his or her beneficiaries.
The person responsible for carrying out this administrative process is called an executor, legal representative or personal representative.
Because a Will is required for Probate, one of the first tasks facing an Executor will be to locate the Will. Not only does the Will specify how the deceased wished to distribute his or her estate but it should also confirm the name of the person that has been appointed as Executor of the deceased’s estate. Once the Last Will is locate, the next task will be to determine whether it is indeed a valid Last Will and Testament on its face, ensuring for example that it has been signed by the testator and witnessed by the correct number of witnesses. Most states require that a Last Will and Testament be witnessed by two witnesses (in Vermont, there must be three witnesses).
Assuming that the Last Will is validly executed, the next step will be to confirm that this is in fact the Last Will of the deceased, as generally only the Last Will has legal effect (new Wills tend to revoke old Wills in their entirety). This is why it’s important that a testator physically destroys any pre-existing Wills and Codicils when he or she makes a new Will. At least, in that way, where can be no room for argument as to which will is in fact the testator’s Last Will.
Assuming that the Last Will appears in order, you will then need to determine whether probate is required and, if so, apply for your letters of authority. In applying for probate, the probate court will also scrutinise the Last Will to make sure that it is valid.
How To Probate An Estate - A Step-By-Step Guide for Executors
This book is essential reading for anyone contemplating acting as an executor of someone’s estate! Learn about the various stages of probate and what an executor needs to do at each stage to successfully navigate his way through to closing the estate and distributing the deceased’s assets.
Published December 2010
Amazon Price: $24..95