You are going to be the Executor or Personal Representative in a Probate. Now what?

Virgilia (Jil) S Culver Attorney Wyoming Probate Attorney can help call today 307-388-4085

Below is a general discussion of what is likely to happen.

Probate begins with filing a petition with the Probate Court and the process is similar whether there is a Will or not. The attorney will prepare the petition for your signature. The petition requests both your appointment as personal representative and admission of the will (or administration of an intestate estate) to probate. Within a short time after the petition is filed, the judge signs an order approving the petition, and the court issues letters testamentary certifying your appointment as personal representative. You then are authorized to deal with all the facets of the estate, including obtaining payments on insurance, paying creditors’ claims, signing releases, listing real property for sale, transferring bank accounts, and any other duties that become necessary as a result of your appointment as personal representative.

After filing the petition, a notice is published in a local newspaper of general circulation regarding the probate. This puts creditors on notice that they have a short time within which to file claims against the estate for payment of their accounts.

Next, the attorney will prepare notices for all heirs and beneficiaries advising them that you have been appointed personal representative and informing them about how to obtain information about the estate. This notice to heirs and the published notice for creditors are required by law.
An inventory of the estate assets must be filed within 60 days of your appointment as personal representative. The estate assets will consist of all property owned individually by the decedent.
You may need to prepare federal and state inheritance tax returns depending upon the value of the probate inventory and the value of any other assets that pass to any beneficiaries outside of probate, such as by insurance beneficiary designation or joint ownership. The inheritance tax returns are due nine months after death, but if they are required, you should make every effort to prepare them earlier.

In the meantime, you will be preparing the final income tax return for the decedent, for the last year, for filing with the State and the IRS. Once the personal income tax returns (and the inheritance tax returns, if needed) are prepared and filed, all taxes must have been paid or provided for by estate funds before the estate can be distributed and the probate closed.

When the taxes have been resolved and creditors have been paid, the estate is ready for distribution. The attorney will prepare for your signature an accounting that is filed with the court reporting all the property in the estate, any income received, and any disbursements made during the probate.
The accounting includes a petition for distribution of the estate assets to the beneficiaries, and a request that you be authorized to pay attorney fees and costs, accountant fees, if any, and your personal representative fee. After the judge signs the order approving the accounting and the distribution, distributions are made. The attorney will help you distribute the assets to the beneficiaries and secured signed receipts from the beneficiaries that must be filed with the court.
The final income tax return for the estate must be prepared and filed. The attorney will prepare a final petition to discharge you as personal representative and close the estate.

During the time that the estate is open, all cash from the estate should be kept in a separate, interest-bearing account, such as a money market account or a short-term certificate of deposit, in the name of the estate. ( Not your personal account!) Any money received by you as personal representative must be deposited into the estate bank account. It is forbidden to commingle estate funds with your personal funds.

You must arrange with an accountant or other tax professional (it makes sense to use the decedent’s tax professional) to prepare the necessary federal and state tax forms (the decedent’s final income tax return {IRS form 1040 and state form}, any required inheritance tax returns {IRS form 706 and state form}, and the estate income tax return {IRS form 1041 and state form}). The fees for tax return preparation should be included in your request for payment of estate expenses. Do not forget to request them.

You will need to forward a certified copy of the death certificate and names, addresses, and the ages of all heirs and beneficiaries. The petition can then be prepared.

Do not hesitate to ask questions Virgilia (Jil) S Culver Attorney Wyoming Probate Attorney