What to Do With a Will After a Death

By Laura Wallace Henderson

Wills provide written documentation of the will maker's -- also called testator -- final wishes. Upon the death of the testator, the will undergoes a formal legal process known as probate. Probate helps determine the validity of the will and oversees the process of carrying out its directives. The person responsible for taking the will through probate is called an executor.

Wills provide written documentation of the will maker's -- also called testator -- final wishes. Upon the death of the testator, the will undergoes a formal legal process known as probate. Probate helps determine the validity of the will and oversees the process of carrying out its directives. The person responsible for taking the will through probate is called an executor.

Will

When writing a will, an individual can name a person or group of people to supervise the actions of administering the estate. After the death of the testator, the executor or administrator must locate the will and present it to the local probate court along with a certified copy of the testator’s death certificate. Whoever has possession of the will must submit it to the executor of the estate, or submit it directly to the probate court within the period allotted by the state.

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Probate

The probate process officially begins when the will is submitted to the court. The court officially appoints an executor -- normally the individual named in the will -- to administer the estate, and supplies legal documents known as letters testamentary, or letters of administration, allowing the executor to take control of the testator’s probate property. Items that don’t go through probate can include joint property and insurance or retirement accounts that pass directly to named beneficiaries.

Responsibilities

Other executor actions often include supplying the court with the names and addresses of the testator’s surviving spouse, children and other beneficiaries, creating an inventory of assets, and paying any debts or taxes on behalf of the estate. Once the court permits to do so, the executor distributes the assets and personal belongings in accordance with the directives in the will.

Assistance

Because acting as an executor can be time-consuming and difficult, the executor has the right to hire professionals at the expense of the estate. These include attorneys, accountants and real estate agents, for example. The probate court may also offer information to the executor regarding the standard probate procedures.

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Can a Non-Lawyer Bring a Will to Probate Court?

References

Related articles

How to Force an Executor to Execute a Will in Oklahoma

Oklahoma law requires anyone in possession of a will, such as the named executor, to present it to the court within 30 days of the testator's (will maker) death. If the will is not presented within the 30-day window, Oklahoma law allows any heir, beneficiary or other interested party to compel presentation of the will, which begins the probate process and effectively forces the executor to execute, or probate, the will.

Who Enforces the Execution of a Will?

In drafting your will, you may appoint a person to serve as your executor, also known as a personal representative. This person will have the responsibility of carrying out your wishes pursuant to the will. Because the executor has a number of responsibilities and can be held personally responsible if they are not properly carried out, carefully consider appointing someone who is trustworthy and capable of carrying out the somewhat complicated probate process.

Duties for an Executor for a Will Estate

The executor of a will is responsible for settling all matters relating to an estate after the testator's death. Because this job is highly time-consuming and carries great responsibility, select your executor with care. Discuss the role with your choice before officially naming him in your will, and make sure that he feels qualified to handle the task. You may also want to name an additional executor in your will in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to perform his duties.

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