Most people leave an estate when they pass away, and that estate generally needs to go through some form of the probate process. The term estate simply refers to the assets and debts remaining at the time of death.
Probate involves tasks such as validating the will and granting official authority to someone to administer the estate, pay the bills, and distribute remaining assets. Iowa laws establish strict requirements regarding how and when certain tasks must be completed. For that reason, many people find it helpful to have an experienced attorney guide them through the probate process for a loved one.
At Huizenga Law, we can often manage many of the probate requirements directly so that you do not need to appear in court. We understand that this is a difficult time, and we work to make the process as easy, efficient, and economical as possible.
One of the first tasks in probate is to locate the deceased person’s will or determine that they did not create a will. If the will was prepared by an attorney, it should name someone to serve as personal representative (also referred to as an executor) to handle winding up the deceased person’s estate.
If there is no will, the estate will still need to go through probate unless there are no assets. When an estate includes very few assets, it is often possible to use a simplified process. But many times, formal probate is required.
The probate attorney or someone acting for the estate will present the will in court and request that it be validated and ask the court to authorize the personal representative to act for the estate. Once the court issues authorization documents, the personal representative will be able to access accounts. When there is no will, the court will choose a personal representative.
Duties of a Personal Representative
A personal representative is not required to personally pay for any debts left by the deceased person. However, they do have a duty to manage the estate’s assets responsibly and follow all appropriate probate rules. If they make a mistake that causes a creditor to go unpaid or reduce the amount a beneficiary receives, it is possible for the representative to be held personally liable. This is one reason why it is so helpful to have guidance from a probate lawyer who knows all the rules and procedures.
The personal representative or the probate attorney will need to:
- Locate all assets and get appraisals if necessary
- Prepare an inventory
- Notify all potential creditors in accordance with legal requirements
- Pay all taxes owed by the estate
- Notify all beneficiaries and potential heirs
- Pay creditors in the appropriate order of priority
- Distribute any remaining assets in accordance with the will or the law
- File final paperwork
If the deceased person did not leave a will or if the court finds the will to be invalid, then the Iowa laws of intestate succession determine who will receive the estate’s assets after all creditors have been satisfied.
Allow Huizenga Law to Guide You Through the Probate Process
At Huizenga Law, we understand that you are dealing with numerous challenges at a time when your mind is overwhelmed with emotions. Allow us to assist. We know how to manage probate issues for all types of estates, and we always strive for efficiency and economy so that your family can enjoy peace and benefits without stress or unnecessary delays.
To discuss the ways we can be of service during the probate process, contact us today.