PROBATE

New Albany Probate Lawyer & Probate Administration Attorney

If you have recently lost a loved one, my sincere condolences.  I appreciate that the loss of a loved one is not only difficult emotionally, but places an additional burden on you if you’ve been named Executor or Personal Representative of your loved one’s estate Most people have never served in this capacity before, and do not know where to start.

As a Personal Representative or Executor, you will need to understand what to expect from the probate process in Indiana and the duties that need to be fulfilled. As a probate attorney with over 10 years of legal experience, I will be by your side through every step of the probate process, and help guide and advise you through your responsibilities and actions as part of the probate process.

If you’ve been named as an Executor or Personal Representative, I invite you to call me today at (812) 578-5348 to schedule a free consultation to learn how we help Executors and Personal Representatives fulfill their probate duties. I also encourage you to read through the following article to learn more about the Indiana probate process.

Indiana Probate FAQs

The terms “Personal Representative” and “Executor” are often used interchangeably and refer to the person who is appointed by the court to manage the probate process and administer the estate of a decedent.

In Indiana, the term “Executor” is used specifically to refer to the person named in a will to manage an estate, while a “Personal Representative” is used to refer to anyone appointed by the court, whether or not there is a will.  For the rest of this page, only the term “Personal Representative” will be used. The Personal Representative is held to a high standard of care and must act in the best interests of the estate and the legal heirs and Indiana law.

In Indiana, the probate process typically takes between six months and a year to complete, but it can take longer depending on the complexity of the estate and any disputes that may arise. During this time, the Personal Representative of the estate will gather and inventory the decedent’s assets, pay any outstanding debts and taxes, and distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries named in a will or according to Indiana intestacy law (if there is no will).

The exact duration of the probate process can vary based on a number of considerations, so it is critical to consult with an experienced New Albany probate attorney who can provide guidance on your particular situation.

A probate estate refers to the liabilities and assets of a deceased individual that must go through the Indiana probate process in order to be distributed to heirs or beneficiaries.  Probate is the legal process in which Indiana courts oversee the distribution of a decedent’s assets. The assets that make up a probate estate typically include:

  • Real estate,
  • Personal property (including vehicles),
  • Bank accounts,
  • Investments, and
  • Other assets that do not pass directly to a beneficiary outside of probate.

During probate, the court will assess the validity of a decedent’s will, and appoint a Personal Representative to manage the estate.

 

The Indiana probate process typically encompasses the following steps:

  • Filing the Petition. The probate process begins when a petition is filed with the probate court in the county in which the decedent lived. The petition requests the court to open a probate estate and appoint a Personal Representative to manage the estate.
  • Appointment of a Personal Representative. If the court determines a probate petition is valid, it will appoint a Personal Representative to manage the estate. If the deceased individual has a will, the court will generally appoint the individual named as the executor in the will as the Personal Representative. If there is no will or the named executor is unable or unwilling to serve, the court will appoint someone else to act as the Personal Representative.
  • Administration of the Estate by the Person Representative. This aspect consists of the duties of the Personal Representative noted below.
  • Closing the Estate. Once all debts have been paid, all taxes are filed, and all assets have been distributed, the Personal Representative can file a final report with the court asking to close the estate.

The duties associated with being a Personal Representative can be daunting, especially for those who have never served in such capacity before. As an experienced probate administration attorney, I can provide strategic and pragmatic guidance from the beginning of the process until the estate is closed, ensuring that your loved one’s assets are properly administered.

After the death of a loved one, a Personal Representative is appointed to handle the affairs of the deceased person’s estate. The duties of a Personal Representative in Indiana can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the estate but typically include the following:

  • Identifying and Inventorying Assets. The Personal Representative is responsible for identifying and locating all of a decedent’s assets, such as bank accounts, real estate, personal property, and investments.
  • Protecting and Preserving Assets During the Probate Process. The Personal Representative must also manage and protect these assets throughout the probate process. For example, if a home is part of an estate, the Personal Representative will need to ensure that necessary repairs are made so that the home does not depreciate.
  • Paying Debts and Taxes. The Personal Representative is tasked with paying outstanding debts or taxes owned by the estate from estate assets, including medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, and other liabilities.
  • Communicating With Beneficiaries. A Personal Representative should keep all beneficiaries informed about the status of the probate process and any critical decision that need to be made.
  • Having Final Tax Returns Prepared and Filed. A Personal Representative will work with a CPA or tax professional to prepare and file the final tax return for the deceased person, as well as the final tax return for the estate. The Personal Representative would have gotten a new tax identification number, called an EIN, for the estate.
  • Distributing Assets to Beneficiaries. Once debts are settled, the Personal Representative must account for the assets, and then distribute any remaining assets of the estate to beneficiaries in accordance to the terms of the Will or the Intestate statute, if there is no Will.
  • Filing Required Court Documents. Probate can involve significant paperwork. The Personal Representative must file all necessary court documents and reports, such as an estate inventory and a final accounting of all assets. We help prepare all of these necessary documents so the Personal Representative adheres to their fiduciary duty.

As a probate lawyer, I help Personal Representatives comply with all aspects of their duties.

No.  If there are not enough assets to pay creditors, then a plan is created to pay creditors in accordance with Indiana law out of the available estate assets.  As a probate attorney, I can help you navigate these issues if this is the case.

One common scenario is distributing assets like real estate where there either is no will, or if the will is ambiguous as to who gets what (like “I leave my house to my three children”).  Problems arise when two children want the house, and one child wants their share of the current value of the house.  I help Personal Representatives work out these difficult matters; often using a variety of negotiation and other techniques.

In these circumstances, ultimately an Agreement Among Beneficiaries will need to be drafted and signed by all beneficiaries as to how specific property will be divided.  In the situation noted above, one child may receive the house, while the other children receive an equivalent value in other estate assets.

In these circumstances, as a probate attorney my goal is to help Personal Representatives achieve two objectives:  reach an agreement with all beneficiaries without having to resort to litigation, and to preserve family harmony to the extent possible.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Experienced New Albany Probate Attorney & Probate Administration Lawyer Jim Plitz.

When an individual is appointed as a Personal Representative, they have a duty to act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries. If you have probate questions or need help probating the estate of a loved one, I invite you to call our office to schedule a free consultation and to learn how I can help you administer your loved one’s estate.

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Southern IN Estate Planning Lawyer James Plitz