Probate is the legal process by which a deceased person’s assets are distributed to their heirs after the estate is inventoried and estate debts are paid. If the person had a will, their assets will be distributed according to the terms of the will by the personal representative appointed in the will. If the person died without a will, the probate court will appoint a personal representative, and the assets will be distributed according to the laws of intestacy.
Except in rare circumstances, probate is necessary in the absence of a trust. The probate process ensures that the deceased person’s wishes are carried out and that their obligations have been taken care of. The probate court supervises the process to ensure it is handled properly, interprets documents that are unclear, and, when necessary, resolves disputes.
The probate process begins when someone files a petition to open probate. The person who opens probate must provide a certified copy of the death certificate and the original will, if the deceased person had one. After the probate court reviews these documents, the court will appoint a personal representative and issue letters testamentary, if there was a will, or letters of administration, if there is no will, and the probate process has officially begun.
Letters testamentary or letters of administration are documents the personal representative appointed by the court will show to banks, government agencies, and other institutions to prove that the estate personal representative is empowered to conduct business on behalf of the estate.
Once appointed, the personal representative must also provide notice to estate creditors. Under Nevada law, the estate representative must send notice to known creditors and publish a notice in a local newspaper to notify unknown creditors that the probate has been opened. Creditors have a limited amount of time to present claims against the estate, depending on the level of probate (60 to 90 days).
The personal representative must also inventory the estate’s assets, thus identify and collect assets that are subject to probate court jurisdiction, and, when necessary, have them appraised.
Once estate assets and debts have been identified, if the estate has sufficient funds, it is time to pay estate debts and taxes. If the deceased person owned a business, the estate representative might need to liquidate the company and pay business taxes.
Once the estate personal representative has paid creditors and estate taxes, they must file the final account, unless it is waived, and they can petition the court for permission to disburse the remaining assets as directed by the deceased person’s will. If the deceased person did not have a will, estate assets will be distributed according to the laws of intestacy. Then, the court can order the estate to be closed.
The time it takes to close a probate estate can vary widely depending on the size of the estate, the complexity of the assets, whether creditors have claims against the estate, and whether there are disputes between estate beneficiaries. The probate process generally lasts anywhere from a few months to a year. In exceptional cases, probate can take several years.
While the probate process may appear simple, each step can present complex legal issues. In addition, the probate court will impose strict deadlines that must be followed.