No matter how old you are, the death of a parent is a difficult and grief-filled time. Knowing what to expect can ease some of the anxiety surrounding the often thorny probate process. While laws vary from state to state, there's certain information the executor of your deceased parent's estate is required to give you, particularly if you are named as a beneficiary in your parent's will.
When a person passes away leaving behind a will, the executor named in that will is responsible for settling the estate. This includes filing the appropriate documents with the local probate court, using the assets of the estate to pay the decedent's final bills, debts, and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets as specified in the will.
Copy of Will
An executor is responsible for giving a copy of the will to every beneficiary named therein. In some states, an executor must also furnish a copy of the will to all the decedent's children, whether or not they are named in the will. Generally, though, once the probate process is complete, the will becomes part of the court's public record, and anyone who is interested can obtain a copy of it from the probate court.
Once the executor has identified all of the decedent's probate assets, he generally must make a written inventory of those assets. The inventory is a list of the decedent's assets that are subject to probate, along with the fair market value of each asset. This inventory is filed with the probate court, and state law governs who is entitled to a copy. Children who are named in the will get a copy of the inventory, regardless of state. In some states, children who are left out of the will are entitled to the inventory as well.
In many instances, the executor is required to file periodic accountings with the probate court. An accounting is simply a written summary of the estate's income and expenditures, and those named in the will are entitled to a copy of any accounting filed with the court.
After all debts and taxes have been paid, the executor files a final accounting detailing the financial activities of the estate and proposing a final distribution of the remaining estate assets. Children named in the will are entitled to a copy of the final accounting, and generally must approve the executor's distribution scheme before probate can end and the decedent's assets can be distributed.
Since state probate laws vary quite widely, it is a good idea to consult an attorney if you have questions concerning the handling of your deceased parent's estate. This is particularly true if you object to your parent's will, since the requirements for contesting a will are both strict and time-sensitive.
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