After a loved one passes away, you could be faced with a serious job. The person who is appointed as the executor of the estate will need to satisfy several responsibilities, such as settling debts, distributing assets and more in order to settle the estate.
If you've found yourself in this position, here are five things you need to know before starting the probate process.
1. Your new responsibilities
Mainly, your job will be to settle unfinished business and distribute assets to beneficiaries. You’ll also settle unpaid debts using the estate first.
The law requires that you handle these responsibilities to the best of your ability with honest and sincere intentions. If things get complicated, an attorney can help.
2. Debts come in, debts go out
Document your loved one’s assets and collect debts owed. Creditors owed anything should be paid from the estate. If the debt outweighs the estate, the probate court can help you make a settlement agreement with creditors.
3. Some assets don’t go through probate
Upon your loved one’s death, some of their assets could be transferred to creditors automatically, such as:
- Those with a named beneficiary, such as life insurance policies, bank or retirement accounts, or stocks and bonds
- Jointly owned property
- Assets in a living trust
4. The will can only do so much
Your loved one’s will is the guide you and the probate court use to make decisions. But, it can be challenged.
For example, the testator may not be able to cut spouses or dependents out of an inheritance owed them under the law. Because Texas is a community property state, a surviving spouse could be entitled to a 50/50 split of the assets, despite what the will states. However, if a prenuptial agreement superseded this 50/50 split, its terms may be honored.
5. The will may leave questions unanswered
The Probate process allows beneficiaries to question or challenge the testator's wishes. Ultimately, probate courts act as the final venue for answering these lingering questions. However, in some circumstances, they may leave these decisions up to the executor of the estate to decide.