Estate administration or probate is a complex process that can be overwhelming, especially if you are grieving the loss of a loved one. Estate administration or probate refers to the court supervised management of the estate of a person who has passed away. It can include collecting and managing assets, paying debts, and distributing remaining assets to beneficiaries.
If you’re unsure how to begin or are having trouble navigating the complexities of estate administration, you should consult with a professional who specializes in this area of law.
Probate and Estate Administration: The Basics
Money, personal items, real properties, and financed accounts are all part of an estate. When the estate owner dies, estate administrators arrange these matters and represent the estate.
The deceased person’s will should state who will fill this role. The probate court must appoint an administrator if the person doesn’t have a will.
Steps Involved in Estate Administration
Here are some of the steps involved in the estate administration process:
- Submit your petition. To become an estate executor or administrator, you must go to probate court in the county where the decedent resided and file for the appointment. Once appointed, the estate executor or administrator acquires legal documentation certifying their status. You would then inform all relevant parties of your appointment.
- Gather assets. When you’ve located all of the deceased’s assets, you are to inventory everything and submit it to the probate court as soon as possible.
- Pay outstanding debts. As the estate executor or administrator, you will be responsible for settling any outstanding debts or obligations. Examples of such expenses are utility costs, mortgage payments, and storage fees.
- Tax requirements. Some estates are sizable enough to require the payment of a federal estate tax. If you are the executor or administrator of a significant estate, you must pay these taxes by the deadline, which is usually nine months after the decedent’s death. The deceased’s last income tax return must also be filed a year after their death.
- Property distribution. After you have completed the estate administration or probate obligations, you may begin distributing assets (with court approval). Many executors or administrators also keep some liquid assets aside so there will be enough resources to cover any unexpected claims or bills.
How a Skilled Probate and Estate Administration Attorney Can Help
The estate administration process can be complicated, and it’s important that you work with a skilled attorney who understands how to navigate the legal system. Estate administration attorneys can help with:
- Identifying and contacting family members who are interested in receiving some or all of the deceased’s assets
- Determining tax obligations
- Distributing assets according to the deceased’s will or trust
The Law Offices of Michael K. Lanning, APLC, has more than 35 years of experience helping families navigate through the process of estate administration in compliance with California law. Contact us at 310-820-1600 or go to our website to learn more about how we can help you with the estate administration process.
We serve West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, Manhattan Beach, and the surrounding Los Angeles communities.