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How to probate an estate?

Posted by jockewing (My Page) on
Fri, May 21, 10 at 19:50

I was named the "independent administrator" of my grandmother's estate. She passed a few weeks ago. I and my brother are the primary heirs. I am finding very little on the internet about what exactly I have to do to probate the estate as quickly as possible.

The lawyer that drew up the will doesn't really do a good job of explaining things to me. I have found in life that the more educated you are, the more efficiently things go.

Does anyone have experience with this? The lawyer told me it should only take about 6 weeks. I am in Louisiana, by the way.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: How to probate an estate?

Google Louisiana probate, and you should come up with a lot of info. Laws vary so much state to state, that you can't get a lot of useful info here.


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RE: How to probate an estate?

Well I have found a lot of stuff with very general information, but almost nothing that states in detail what must be done step by step or anything on how long it's supposed to take.


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RE: How to probate an estate?

I would suggest that you hire your own attorney if your mother's is not providing any information. As far as how long it's supposed to take the time depends on too many things to give a definate answer. Can be as little as a couple of weeks if the court is quick and only one person in the will to several years, depending on the state if children are envolved.

With my father's, Missouri several years ago, I was only heir and had been with my husband joint guardians. We had to file with the court, advertise in a paper that posted legal advertizements, wait 6 weeks for any debts to show up, go before judge. The judge then granted the petition for probate and closed the estate. If there are many heirs and things are supposed to be split you may have to wait until property or other things are sold so the proceeds can be divided.

All of these processes are easier if you have an attorney that gives a Sh*t and wants to earn their fee and be finished.


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RE: How to probate an estate?

Left out that you will have to file taxes both federal and state if any for the deceased person. Best to get a Tax Id from IRS for the estate rather than using deceased or yours.


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RE: How to probate an estate?

Well it is my grandmother's estate. The estate includes a paid-off house, a paid-off car, a bank account, and one investment account (Edward Jones). Louisiana provides for an independent administration where the court does not have to be petitioned for every step, and no advertising is required. The will is very specific about who gets what: I get the house and the car, and my brother and I split the bank and investment accounts. There are small cash gifts to a friend and a niece. There are no debts and I have already provided the lawyer with details about all the assets and the value at the date of death.

We have already presented the original will to the court, filed an affidavit of death and heirship, and filed to get me officially appointed as the administrator. I believe we may have also already filed the detailed list of assets. I believe the only thing left may be the petition for judgement of possession, but he may have done that already, too. I think he said the reason he thought it would take 6 weeks is because sometimes death certificates take that long, although the funeral home told me that should only take 2-3 weeks.

Maifleur, are you talking about estate taxes? There are no LA estate taxes if you start probate within 9 months of death and there are no federal estate taxes this year. Or do you mean I have to file my grandmother's regular taxes for the portion of the year she was alive? I thought that was something that was not a part of the actual estate probate process. If it is, I wish the lawyer would tell me that so I could get started on it!

This process just really stresses me out and I want it to be over with!


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RE: How to probate an estate?

There will be federal/state income taxes for the balance of the year when the deceased was alive. As for there being no estate taxes this year, please understand that Congress may very well pass a new estate tax act that will be **retroactive** to the first of year, in which case the heirs will be responsible after the proceeds are already distributed. This may also affect the step-up valuations of the property.

Now, if the estate in a large one and would incur an estate tax in previous years (2 or 3 million, I am not sure), I'd be prepared. If the total value of the estate is under say, a half million, then you shouldn't have a worry. In any case, you need to have the real and personal property appraised, because (previous rules) you inherit at the stepped up value. IOW, if your grandmother bought the house for $5K in 1948 and it is now worth a million, your inherited basis is a million, which will be important when you go to sell the house, and look at your capital gains. If she bought the house for $5K and it's now worth $150,000, that's not as extreme a case, but still get the house appraised. Cars are usually considered depreciating assets and not a concern unless they are valuable collectibles.

Understand that ALL of this info is under a cloud because of the very great possibility that a retroactive estate tax might be passed.


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RE: How to probate an estate?

Well the value of the estate is under a million, so I doubt there will be any estate tax. Thank god for the 1.3 million exemption for step-up basis. And the house has appreciated less than $100,000.00 The whole value of the estate is probably under 750,000, so I don't think there will be any estate taxes and we should have the stepped up basis in everything.


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RE: How to probate an estate?

Good news for you. But you'll still need to file income taxes for the income received while she was alive.


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RE: How to probate an estate?

Sushi, I understand I will need to file for the part of the year she was alive, but is this part of the official "probate" process? I thought this was something separate that I wouldn't have to file until next April? If not, do I start asking the banks, investment firm, SS admin, the pension company for financial info for the part of the year from Jan 1 to her death so I can get started?


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RE: How to probate an estate?

You'll have to consult a tax professional about that. I don't think that the estate can be considered "closed" when there are loose ends like taxes still outstanding. If you wait until next year, and she owes, who will pay? Did she pay estimated quarterly taxes? If there is a refund, who gets it? You should be able to piece together the income rec'd as of the date of her death just by looking at the statements. And FWIW, if you don't file taxes ASAP, you may need to apply for a separate tax ID number for the estate and file on subsequent income on that ID number.

These are more tax questions than legal questions, so you really should talk to a CPA experienced with estates. Probably better than talking to an attorney.


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RE: How to probate an estate?

Different state have different rules as to how and estate or proceeds of the estate are taxed. Not current on figures but for years Missouri followed federal amount. Kansas the next state over anything over 7 thousand was taxed.


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RE: How to probate an estate?

OK, as I recall, if my Mother's estate's income (after her death) had exceeded $600 in income before the accounts were closed and distributed, I'd need to open a new estate Federal ID number and file the new tax return under the estate's ID. As it was, because the accounts were also in my name, I skirted the issue by about $50 in interest income, and avoided the new tax ID number. So, don't anyone tell the IRS....

In complicated estates with lots of assets, this would be automatic, but then, those people aren't you and me, and would already have tax people working for them.


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RE: How to probate an estate?

Thanks for all the responses. It's been about 10 days since I met with the lawyer and filled out the appropriate documents, so I should have been granted the administer status by now. I am calling tomorrow (Monday) morning to see if that has happened yet. Also will call the funeral home to get a status on the death certificates. I will ask the lawyer about the tax return so I can get started on that, if I need to. Thanks for the help. I'll keep you posted on what happens.

1 week down, 5 (hopefully) to go.......


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RE: How to probate an estate?

One thing that you might do if she had a computer is to look at the sites she went to most frequently. A growing number of older people are doing their banking and investing on line. If they have set up things to have no paper documents anyone settling an estate may not be aware of additional accounts or bills. Since about the only thing companies send by mail are privacy notices and the post office will only forward for a short period of time things could get missed.


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RE: How to probate an estate?

It isn't all that hard to do a probate if the estate is simple. I used to be a probate paralegal. What a person can do is go to Amazon and look for Louisiana Probate. You will find a book that will tell you everything you need to know. If you don't want the fuss and bother, you can hire an attorney. When ny mother died, my brother started with an attorney for the first filings but we finished the probate ourselves. The attorney was really steamed, but we hadn't done anything wrong.


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RE: How to probate an estate?

Well it's been a while, but I thought I'd give an update if anyone's interested...

This afternoon my brother and I go to the lawyer to sign the petition for judgement of possession, the descriptive list, and the waiver of the final accounting. I went over to my brother's last night and showed him exactly everything I've paid for over the last few weeks (final funeral expenses, my grandma's last household and credit card bills, etc.) I gave him a detailed spreadsheet that listed every penny, and showed the balances in all accounts after expenses are paid and what his share should be based on the percentages stipulated in the will.

He was OK with everything, but I wanted to be sure he knew that everything has been above board and on the level. I also wanted him to see exactly what his share would be so he wouldn't be surprised at the lawyer's office by anything.

So.....after we sign everything today, the lawyer should immediately file all documents with the court and all we have to wait for is the judge to sign off. Everything has been done by the book and there are only a few accounts and my grandmother had all of her records very organized. Everything should be pretty straightforward and easy for the judge to follow, so there shouldn't be any problems. The lawyer told me the judge usually signs off in about a week, so hopefully by the end of next week at the latest, this will all be finished.

I am just very glad there have been relatively few problems and arguments. Although my brother was angry at first since my grandmother left a larger share to me, he's calmed downed and I guess he's realized she left him and his daughter sizable gifts. He isn't going to want to delay the process so that he can get ownership of his share. And he can't blame me, since it was my grandmother's decision of what she wanted to leave to whom--not mine.

This has been a lot of work! None of it was really difficult, but I found that keeping separate folders (1 for info on all the assets, such as bank statements, car title, investment account statement, deed to house; and 1 for all bills paid after death) have really helped me to keep things in order. I have a little tote bag that I keep all of the documents in, including death certs, official administration letters, copy of the will, etc., that I bring with me to work every day. That has been a huge help as if I've had to talk with someone on the phone or go meet with someone, I've had all the info right at my fingertips. This has mostly been about keeping good records and getting tons of things signed and mailed to various people. I can't imagine how much work it is for big complex estates or when the deceased didn't keep good records!

Keeping fingers crossed everything is smooth sailing!


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RE: How to probate an estate?

Congratulations - yes, it is quite a bit more work to be an executor or trustee, even when good records are kept. I think most people underestimate how much needs to be done when a death happens.

I assume you have also filed the final tax return, which is due 18 mos. from the date of death.


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