Rice and Rice

Probate

Probate

If you know what probate is, you have likely participated in it in some fashion. Perhaps you are currently an appointed executor or administrator of an estate. As you may already know, the probate process is both time-consuming and costly and may present complications depending on the size of the estate. 

At Rice & Rice, our attorneys have more than 75 years of combined experience in estate planning and probate matters and we have helped our many clients throughout Indiana, Illinois and Michigan with complicated legal matters. We know the Indiana probate laws and we use this knowledge to help our clients through the probate process. When you find yourself needing help with the probate process, contact our law firm to speak to an Indiana probate lawyer. Contact us today by calling (219) 255-5285.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the public review and administration of a decedent’s assets and liabilities, the settling of obligations, and the transfer of assets to heirs. Not all estates will need to go through probate. As an executor or administrator of an estate, you must understand how the probate process works and what is necessary for the probate process for the estate.

Testate and Intestate Probate

If a probate proceeding is necessary for the estate, the estate will enter testate or intestate probate.

  • Testate Probate. When a Last Will exists and is valid, the process is called testate probate.
  • Intestate Probate. When no Last Will exists or it is invalid, then the process is called intestate probate.

For intestate probate, the following will need to occur to appoint an administrator:

    1. A person will request to be appointed as the official personal representative or administrator of the estate. This may be a family member or friend.
    2. The court will review requests by persons seeking to be appointed as the personal representative of the estate.
    3. The court will request that heirs of the estate confirm the request. If there are no challenges, then the court will appoint the person as the administrator of the estate.

If there are multiple requests or challenges to an appointment, the process can be drawn out for weeks or even months. This can cause real problems for an estate, as no person can take control to pay bills, taxes, maintain the property, stop recurring services, etc.

"Never say you know a man until you have divided an inheritance with him."

JOHANN KASPAR LAVATER

Probate Administration: Unsupervised or Supervised Estate​

Unsupervised Estates

Many probate estates are pretty straightforward; there are generally little to no disputes and the estate is not of high value. In these situations, the court may find that, once the appropriate personal representative is appointed, he or she should have the freedom to administer the estate without constant court involvement. This is an unsupervised estate.

The administrator is still bound to fiduciary duties and responsibility to the heirs. In addition, the probate process must be followed. Unsupervised probate usually costs less to complete because there is less court and attorney involvement. The personal representative works independently to accomplish the necessary tasks.

The heirs are protected from a personal representative who does not follow the necessary procedures. They can challenge an action or lack of action with the court. The court may find it appropriate to convert the probate into a supervised estate.

Supervised Estates

The primary difference with a supervised estate is the constant involvement of the court or magistrate. Supervised administration is necessary when the probate court must be a part of the process. Generally, this is due to one or more of the following:

  • Beneficiaries do not agree
  • There is no will and/or the heirs are unknown
  • The will is unclear
  • Assets are difficult to value or sell

If you are an executor or administrator of a supervised estate, speak to an experienced Indiana probate lawyer. In supervised administrations, more paperwork is prepared and filed with the court and cases are generally more complicated. Probate lawyers are experienced in handling this lengthy process and can help you understand your responsibilities and options.

The Probate Process

Whether intestate or testate, there are several procedures the executor must follow. Beyond the necessary court filings, other requirements include:

  1. Sending notification letters to creditors
  2. Publishing announcements in a local newspaper
  3. Notifying heirs and inventorying assets
  4. Paying decedent’s final expenses
  5. Filing decedent’s final taxes and estate taxes
  6. Completing estate accounting
  7. Filing final court documents
  8. Making distributions to heirs
  9. Closing the estate

The probate process can range from 6 months to several years.​ This is why it is important to speak with an attorney early in the process. An experienced probate attorney at our law firm has the knowledge to help you understand your responsibilities as an executor and guide you every step of the way.

Schedule a Consultation With an Indiana Probate Lawyer at Our Firm

If you’ve been named an executor and need help navigating the probate process, contact our law firm to speak with one of our lawyers. The Rice & Rice legal team is experienced in helping clients through the probate process and we are here to help you.

With offices in Valparaiso, Lafayette and Granger (near South Bend) we are uniquely positioned to serve clients throughout Indiana. Schedule a free consultation today by calling (219) 255-5285 or by submitting an online form.

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