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When you lose a loved one, it can be a difficult time. For some, the stress of final arrangements and estate distribution can seem like an almost insurmountable burden. Probating a will is often challenging, but not impossible. The process involves proving that the testator—the person who made the will—did so with sound mind and intention. If you’re tasked with probating a will, you may feel overwhelmed or confused about where to begin. While this process isn’t simple, there are ways to make it more straightforward. Here are some tips for probating a will.
Check for the presence of a durable financial power of attorney
Financial power of attorney is a document that gives another person the ability to act on your behalf with regard to your finances. If a financial power of attorney is in place, it’s possible that it supersedes the will. In this case, the person appointed in the financial power of attorney would handle the will’s probate. Similarly, a health care power of attorney grants another person the ability to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable to do so. If a health care power of attorney was in effect, it would supersede the will. In this case, the person appointed in the power of attorney would handle the will’s probate.
Determine if there are any obstacles to proving the will
In some situations, you may need to prove that the deceased person made the will with sound mind and intention. This process is called “proving the will.” Next, you’ll want to determine if there are any obstacles to proving the will. You may need to determine the jurisdiction where the deceased person resided at the time of death. This can be done by analyzing their assets, such as real estate or a business. For example, if the deceased owned a business, the will would be probated in the county where the business is located. If the deceased owned property in more than one state, the will would be probated in the state where the property is located.
Find and contact potential inheritors
Find the original will and locate the beneficiaries named in the will. If there are no original copies of the will, determine who the testator named as executor in the will. If the will is undated, and the original copy is missing, and there is no named executor listed in the will, you may want to contact a probate lawyer. Contact the beneficiaries named in the will and the executor named in the will. Let them know you’re going through the probate of will and that they may be named as beneficiaries. Most importantly, ask them if they have or know of any objections to the will.
Notify any potential beneficiaries who were omitted from the will
If there are potential beneficiaries named in the will who were omitted, you’ll want to notify them that they may be eligible for an inheritance, per the will. Find the original will or determine who the testator named as executor in the will. Ask the executor for the full will, including any codicils and amendments. Find all potential beneficiaries who have inheritance rights and notify them of their rights.
Publish notice to inheritors who were omitted from the will
If there are beneficiaries who weren’t named in the will, but who should have been, you’ll want to publish a notice in the local paper. This is called “giving notice to persons omitted from the will.” Find the original will or determine who the testator named as executor in the will. Ask the executor for the full will, including any codicils and amendments. Find all potential beneficiaries who weren’t named in the will. Find an attorney in your state who is certified by the American Bar Association. If there is more than one attorney in your county, you can conduct a general internet search to learn more about each attorney’s experience and track record. Find an attorney who has experience with probating wills and publishing notice to omitted beneficiaries.
Probating a will isn’t easy, but with the right preparation and a little patience, you can manage the process. The first step is to determine the jurisdiction of the deceased person’s will. Next, you’ll want to find and contact any beneficiaries listed in the will. Lastly, you’ll want to publish notice to any beneficiaries who were omitted from the will.