The probate process in Indiana requires proof that a will exists and is valid, identifies the assets of the decedent, appraises all of the assets, and distributes property in accordance with the terms of the will. The process can be significantly simplified if there is a will in place or in the event the decedent’s property is held jointly or in TOD (transfer on death) accounts.
The probate process may be unnecessary if:
- Assets are jointly owned.
- Assets have a TOD (transfer on death) designation.
- Retirement accounts and life insurance policies have been named beneficiaries.
- Assets are held in a trust where a successor trustee is named.
The Role of the Estate Administrator
If someone passes away without a will, this is known as dying intestate. When the deceased had the foresight to create a will while they were still alive, they would choose an executor of their estate. If they die intestate, the court will appoint the executor.
The executor is in charge of administering the decedent’s estate throughout the probate process. This individual has the legal power, responsibilities, and duty to act in the decedent’s best interests. A successful probate process occurs when an executor partners with a skilled probate attorney, especially one from White & Jocham.
Responsibilities of the Appointed Executor
Prepare an inventory of all the estate’s assets.
- Resolve outstanding debts.
- Locate all heirs.
- Sell off any estate property.
- Prepare a final accounting in detail.
- Complete all required tax filings and resolve any payments to cover federal, state, and estate taxes.
- Distributing assets in accordance with the decedent’s wishes.
- Notifying beneficiaries of a reading of the will.
Responsibilities of An Executor During Probate
The duties of an executor begin even before the court officially confirms them. The responsibilities of an executor during probate are:
1. Make sure the decedent’s will is filed with the probate court.
The executor will need to determine the right venue, and this will be based on where the decedent lived or owned assets.
2. File a petition for probate within 30 days.
If the executor fails to do so, the court may find them unfit to administer the estate. Once the court approves the executor’s position, they will have the legal authority to proceed with the probate process.
3. Gather the assets of the deceased and determine their value.
One of an executor’s most complex duties is gathering the deceased’s assets and determining their value. They must also determine the amount of debt owed by the decedent. The executor must let heirs and creditors know about the person’s death.
4. Complete a full accounting of the assets & distribute to the beneficiaries.
Executors must complete a full accounting of the assets and show how distribution to the beneficiaries occurred. The accounting will also detail all the work the executor did during the probate process, which includes a list of payments made and any actions they took on behalf of the estate.
5. Ask the court to close the estate..
Once everyone agrees on the accounting, and after the distributions have been completed, the executor will ask the court to close the estate, at which point the probate process will be complete.
Tips for Executors
Acting as an executor is a monumental task. An executor may take plenty of actions to ensure the probate process runs more smoothly. The attorneys at White & Jocham recommend the following:
- Set up a separate account for the estate to pay expenses and track the accounting.
- The executor should propose a plan if the will does not specify how to distribute assets or administer funds. Beneficiaries will typically need to sign an agreement before it will be approved.