How To Probate A Will Without A Lawyer

You probably don’t have an attorney to probate your will. While it’s possible without one, the process is difficult.

Administering a decedent’s estate, otherwise known as probating a will, is typically complicated. Can you handle probate without a lawyer?

While attempting this process alone, you always have the option to contact a probate lawyer with any specific needs or questions. Asking a lawyer about any point in the process might save you from some fees, and will necessitate the knowledge for probating your will.

Petition the Court to Be the Estate Representative

The first step to probating a will is filing a petition within the probate court.

Your petition should either appoint the executor of the will as yourself or appoint an administrator of the estate if there is not a will.

To successfully issue a petition, you will need a copy of the valid will. If there is not a will, you will need some sort of definitive knowledge that there is no will in existence. Proceeding with probate without a will is different than proceeding when there is a will involved.

Notify The Heirs and Creditors

All heirs and creditors should know about any changes to the will to probate.

If there are no heirs listed within the will or not a will, the state will dictate who the heirs are for the will. The person completing the probate of the must understand who the heirs are.

It is also essential to know if the deceased had any outstanding debts. You should contact the creditors with a plan that fulfills the deceased’s monetary obligation to them.

All debts should be settled with assets that pass through the probate.

Before moving forward with the probate, make sure you have a foolproof plan to repay all creditors and that all heirs know about the will.

Change The Legal Ownership of Assets

Distributing the deceased’s assets to the heirs is the main point of probating a will without an attorney. This step is the main crux of the process and may be the lengthiest part of the process, too.

With the successful court appointment, you are legally allowed to change assets previously owned by the deceased to other individuals’ estates. Bank accounts, property, and vehicles will likely be easier to distribute than some other assets. Heirs may receive some assets quickly and easily, while others may be more complicated to distribute.

Certain assets may have multiple owners or complicated royalties. You can contact a lawyer for legal advice about how to proceed with probing the will properly to include those assets. The will must be honored and enacted correctly, so if there are difficulties in the distribution process, it is usually best to ask.

It can become very problematic if a will is not probated correctly and on time.

Intent to hide a will for your financial gain is also a criminal liability that can come back to get you. It’s always best to proceed with the probate as best as possible, but ask a lawyer for assistance if you are unsure about the plan for asset distribution. Legal counsel and a professional agent can remove many of the headaches that come with attempting this process alone.

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Pay Funeral Expenses, Taxes, Debts and Transfer Assets to Heirs

After you have the plan to distribute assets, you should pay off all expenses and taxes related to the funeral. These debts should be paid off before the assets are distributed to heirs.

The court expects funeral expenses and debts to be a priority for those handling the will. If the debts exceed the assets, you should seek legal counsel before proceeding.

Taxes on the funeral expenses will be the court’s primary concern. Whoever is involved with the probate should understand the likely tax liability given the assets and debts remaining.

Tell the Court What You Have Done and Close the Estate

Once you have arranged payments for the debts and organized the assets’ distribution, you can report back to the court. The court will expect proof for every step you took to probate the will.

Usually, the court will give you a template to complete that explains your process of probating the will.

Before turning over all of your information to the courts, it is always good practice to go back over what you have done. It’s best to consult with a lawyer and make certain everything in the process was done legally. Legal counsel will verify that the steps you took were correct and if the probate went as requested by the deceased.

A Probate Attorney is a Good Idea

Despite being able to handle this process alone, seeking legal counsel is often the best course of action.

When you may need a probate lawyer:

You may need a probate attorney if:

  • If you do not understand the legal expectation of an executor of a will.
  • If you are unsure how to change the legal ownership of certain assets.
  • If the deceased’s taxes and debts are more extensive than their assets.
  • If you have completed the entire probate and want to verify that your actions were legal and correct.

It is also important to note that lawyers can be contacted for single questions concerning a will without requiring you to use them as the representative for the will.

Skyview Law is a team of experienced professionals that are ready and eager to help you at any stage in the process. They are trusted probate lawyers in the Tri-City area, with years of experience handling the unexpected complexities that come with settling an inheritance as an executor. Contact them today for a free case review.

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Jarrod Hays is the founder of Skyview Law. He is licensed to practice law in Washington State and the Western District of Washington State Federal Court.

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