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Caring For Generations

Four common questions about the probate process in Indiana

On Behalf of | May 24, 2024 | Probate

Probate is a court-supervised legal process to help distribute the estate after someone passes away. It grants authority to a designated individual (usually the surviving spouse or close family member) to manage the deceased person’s assets, settle debts, and distribute inheritances.

How does the process work?

The process generally begins by filing a petition in the county where the deceased lived at the time of death. If there is a will, the court will likely review the document for a chosen executor. If not, the court generally designates the petitioner as the executor of the estate. The executor compiles a comprehensive list of estate assets, including real estate, bank accounts, personal property, and investments.

What about a will?

If a valid will exists, it must be submitted to the court. The court will review the document to ensure its authenticity. The court will look for various factors to determine if the will is valid, including the signature of the creator of the will along with two witnesses.

How does the process end?

The executor pays off outstanding debts and settles tax obligations. This step helps to ensure that creditors receive their due. After the executor ensures the estate’s assets are used to pay all applicable debts, they can move on to the next step. It is important to note that the executor is generally not personally liable for the debts of the estate unless they make a personal guarantee. As such, executors are wise to move forward with the probate carefully to avoid any costly missteps.

Once the executor uses the estate’s assets to pay the required debts, they can distribute remaining assets in accordance with the will or, if one does not exist, pursuant to state law. This generally means the deceased’s closest relatives receive the assets.

Once this step is complete, the court and beneficiaries can review the estate’s administration. If no disputes arise, the executor proceeds to the next phase and begins to close the process.

How long does it take?

It is important to note that not all assets transfer through the probate process. Certain assets transfer based on beneficiary designation. This can include life insurance, real estate, and some retirement accounts. Others may transfer based on the terms of a trust.

The exact timeline will vary depending on the details of the estate, but can range from almost a year to more than 18 months.