How to Probate Wills

by David Carnes
An estate executor may be nominated by the testator, but must be appointed by a probate judge.

An estate executor may be nominated by the testator, but must be appointed by a probate judge.

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A person who creates a will, known as the testator, must name an executor to administer the distribution of the estate assets after he dies. If you are appointed executor and accept the position, you must collect and inventory estate assets, pay all debts and expenses out of these assets, respond to all claims and challenges against the estate, and distribute the estate's remaining assets as directed by the probate court.

Step 1

Obtain a certified copy of the testator's death certificate from the coroner or the mortuary.

Step 2

Prepare a Petition for Probate of Will and Appointment of Executor. Many states make this form available for download on the state government website. This document identifies the deceased and executor named in the will, and provides certain other information.

Step 3

File the Petition for Probate of Will and Appointment of Executor, and a certified copy of the testator's death certificate, with the office of the probate clerk at the state probate court with jurisdiction over the testator's estate. The probate court will notify you of the date of the initial hearing.

Step 4

Attend the initial hearing. Bring the testator's original will, not a copy, to court with you. Petition the judge to name you executor of the estate and present the will to the judge. The judge will rule on your petition and briefly examine the will to see if it is authentic and legally valid. The judge will the formally admit the will to probate and set another hearing date. He will also provide you with court documents, establishing your authority as executor, that you can show to banks and estate creditors.

Step 5

Take a detailed inventory of all of the estate assets, list them in writing, and file the list with the court.

Step 6

Secure payment of all money owed to the estate, such as the testator's last paycheck.

Step 7

Take an inventory of any claims against the estate's assets. These include amounts owed to creditors. probate expenses and funeral expenses. Examine all claims, pay legitimate claims and refuse to pay dubious claims. You may also have to disburse a living allowance that the court may grant to the testator's dependents to support them while the estate is in probate.

Step 8

Attend all hearings, and respond to any claims against the estate or challenges to the validity of the will during the probate waiting period. The waiting period is designed to allow creditors to emerge and challenges to the validity of the will to be prepared. The length of the waiting period depends on several factors, including state law and the size of the estate.

Step 9

Distribute the estate's remaining assets to the beneficiaries as soon as the waiting period expires.