Your Legal Rights at Work

Filing The Will: What Loved Ones Should Know

by Lewis Hamilton

The probate process is often spoken of with dread. However, it can be made simple. Filing the will is the first step in the probate process so read on to find out what happens next.

Is Probate Necessary?

Before you file the will, speak to a probate lawyer. In many states, probate is not necessary if the estate is valued under a certain value. If many of the assets of the estate are exempt from probate, you might not need to file at all. Also, you might encounter a simplified and shortened probate experience with very small estates.

File the Will

Your probate lawyer will interview you and prepare the necessary documents for probate court. Be sure to use a lawyer in the same county where the deceased lived. However, it's not necessary to use the same lawyer that prepared the will.

The Executor Is Appointed

Wills often designate a person to perform this function. However, the probate court may also appoint someone if no one is named. In some cases, the executor must obtain a bond. The bond is like an insurance policy covering the estate. If the executor takes assets they should not take, the bond reimburses the estate. They are sold by insurance agents everywhere. The cost of the bond is based on the value of the estate.

Public Notice

Your probate lawyer will, in most cases, place an advertisement alerting anyone with a claim against the estate to come forward. Creditors have a certain amount of time to come forward if they want to be considered for payment.


The probate court will place a value on the estate, and it's usually up to the executor to provide them with information in that regard. Guided by the probate lawyer, the executor makes a list of all property and its value. Professional appraisers may be used to provide real estate appraisals. Only valuable items like vehicles, bank accounts, jewelry, and so on should be counted and valued. If the item is excluded from probate, don't include it in the inventory. For instance, bank and investment accounts may have a payable-on-death designation that keeps them out of probate.

Pay the Bills

Some bills should be paid but many should not. The financial affairs of the deceased can be one of the most challenging aspects of an estate. Your probate lawyer will advise the executor when to pay a bill. In most cases, for instance, credit cards and medical bills should not be paid. However, federal and property taxes should be paid.

Once the estate is closed, the final petition is issued and the property may be distributed. Speak to a probate lawyer to find out more.