Probate is a process by which the Will of a deceased person is proved to be valid and the court can supervise the transfer of their property to their beneficiaries. There are many steps in a probate proceeding, and careful attention to the details is important to ensure that the assets are transferred correctly and that creditors’ claims are properly dealt with. First, the Will (if there is one) must be filed with the Probate Court and a petition for probate must be filed. It is through this petition that an executor is appointed by the court. Second, creditors must be notified and legal notices of the death published. Third, all of the properly raised debts must be paid or otherwise disposed of. Fourth, all of the assets must be counted, collected, and protected. Finally, the remaining assets must be distributed to the beneficiaries. Often, estate taxes must be paid.
Each step of this process is governed by rules that can be complicated and confusing. It is important for the executor to receive good guidance in how and when to distribute assets and how to take creditors’ rights into account.
Lippman, Semsker & Salb has extensive experience assisting personal representatives (also known as “executors”) with probate and trust administration matters, including filing the will, setting up testamentary trusts, preparing accountings, dealing with creditors, preparing inventories and tax returns, valuing assets, and distributing assets. Post-death issues sometimes also include assisting personal representatives and potential heirs in will contests, valuation or accounting disputes, or in actions against trustees and personal representatives for breach of fiduciary duty.