The term "probate" refers to the court-supervised process of settling a decedent's estate (as opposed to simply following appropriate guidelines and settling an estate on your own). Not all estates must go through probate, and not all estate assets are subject to the probate process, but probate is required in many cases.
While EstateExec covers the entire settlement process, this reference page explains the use of EstateExec with respect to a few aspects of the process that are unique to probate (see Probate for an overview of probate in general, and EstateExec Reference for overall EstateExec usage instructions).
Determine if Probate Required
The first step in the probate process is to determine whether the estate requires probate: see Is Probate Necessary? for a general introduction.
Start Probate if Applicable
See Sample Estate Tasks Tab: Start Probate for information about getting started with probate, and which court to contact for your particular estate.
Overall Probate Process
There are a number of steps in the probate process, many of which are incorporated into the Tasks tab. This list is by no means exhaustive, and your local court will require various actions that are not explicitly listed in EstateExec. Your local court will help guide you through its requirements; you may also wish to consider retaining a lawyer.
Identify Assets Subject to Probate
If the estate will undergo probate, you will need to determine which assets are subject to probate (see Probate Exclusions).
As you enter assets into the Assets tab, EstateExec will by default mark each one subject to probate according to its asset type. To see which assets are marked for probate, you can use the menu in the top right of the Assets tab to include the Probate column in the Assets table. It's not unusual to have to override these default settings (for example, if an asset is Payable On Death): you can override the default for an asset simply by clicking its corresponding table cell.
Real estate and some classes of personal property must be settled in the jurisdiction of their physical location/title (see Ancillary Probate Guide). If such property exists outside the decedent's legal state of residence, we recommend:
- List all assets in the EstateExec estate, including any out-of-state assets. Because any out-of-state assets will not be subject to probate in the primary jurisdiction, you may choose to summarize and group them. Be sure that any such out-of-state assets are marked as NOT subject to probate (i.e., for this jurisdiction): see Asset Probate Column.
- Set up a separate EstateExec estate for any assets in a particular out-of-state jurisdiction (e.g., all California assets), and use EstateExec to understand your responsibility for those assets and track the relevant tasks for that jurisdiction. Do not summarize the assets in this EstateExec estate, list them specifically, and ensure they are marked subject to probate (i.e., for this jurisdiction). Do not calculate executor fees for this estate, as these should be calculated in the main EstateExec estate.
Other Items Subject to Probate
Debts, expenditures, and distributions are also subject to probate.
By default, EstateExec marks all debts subject to probate; you can override this for a given debt using the process described above for Assets, but on the Debts tab instead.
Distributions are marked subject to probate if they involve an asset marked for probate. You cannot change this, but you can see which distributions are identified as subject to probate using the same table instructions as described above, in this case on the Distributions tab.
EstateExec considers all expenditures to be subject to probate (if the estate is going through probate).
As part of the probate process, you will need to submit an Estate Inventory Report to the court. You can create an Inventory Report from the Estate Actions dropdown in the top right of the Overview tab (note that you may need to reformat the report content according to local requirements).