1. My family member just passed away, what is the first thing I should do?

There are several things you should do when a loved one dies.  Included with this email is an informational outline of the steps to take over the weeks following the death of a loved one.

2. How do I open a probate case?

Collect all the important documents (original version of the will, death certificate and documentation for each asset), complete the appropriate probate petition with original signatures and submit to the court.

3. How long does a probate case last?

The duration of the case depends on the complexity and type of administration.  A small simple estate can be completed in 3-4 months.  A large complex estate can go on for years.  A typical estate is usually resolved in 10-18 months.

4. My [insert family member] may oppose my petition, what are my rights? 

The three classes of people with highest priority to be appointed are as follows, in order: (1) the person named in the will, (2) the surviving spouse, and (3) adult children.  All adult children have equal priority to be appointed unless one or more is named in the will.

5. What should I do about the outstanding bills?

Notify the creditors that the debtor has passed away.  Debts should be paid from the funds of the estate.  Family members may consider paying secured debts to avoid foreclosure or repossession and seek reimbursement from the estate.

6. What if the estate does not have enough money to pay all the bills?

The personal representative shall make payment in the following order if the assets of the estate are insufficient to pay all claims in full.

a) Fees due to the register; 

b) Costs and expenses of administration; 

c) Funeral expenses not to exceed $15,000 

d) Compensation of personal representative in a regular estate, legal services and commissions of licensed real estate broker; 

e) Family allowance – Spouse $10,000; each minor child of the decedent $5,000 

f) Taxes due by the decedent; 

g) Reasonable medical, hospital, and nursing expenses of the last illness of the decedent; 

h) Rent payable by the decedent for not more than three months in arrears; 

i) Wages, salaries or commission for services performed for the decedent within three months prior to death of the decedent; 

j) Public assistance claims; and 

k) All other claims

7. What do I do about property they owned in another state?

If the decedent owned real property in another state, an ancillary probate administration must be opened in the state where the property is located.  Typically, this will require you to be appointed in the decedent's home state first.

8. Who is responsible for the funeral bills?

The estate is responsible for funeral expenses. However, in practice, funeral homes require someone to personally guarantee the costs. Anyone who pays for the funeral expenses assumes the priority of a creditor and is entitled to be reimbursed from the estate. Funeral expenses cannot exceed $15,000 unless: (1) The estate of the decedent is solvent and a special order of court has been obtained; or (2) The estate is solvent and the will expressly empowers the personal representative to pay the expenses without an order of court. If the estate is insolvent, funeral expenses will be reimbursed up to $15,000 in the order outlined in FAQ 6.

9. How much does it cost to open a probate case?

The fees vary with the value of the estate.  Court fees are not due until after you file your petition.

Regular Estate Probate Fee

IF THE VALUE OF THE (REGULAR) PROBATE ESTATE IS AT LEAST

BUT IS LESS THAN

THE FEE IS

$0

$10,000

$50

$10,000

$20,000

$100

$20,000

$50,000

$150

$50,000

$75,000

$200

$75,000

$100,000

$300

$100,000

$250,000

$400

$250,000

$500,000

$500

$500,000

$750,000

$750

$750,000

$1,000,000

$1,000

$1,000,000

$2,000,000

$1,500

$2,000,000

$5,000,000

$2,500

$5,000,000

---------------

$2,500 plus .02% of excess over $5,000,000

Small Estate Probate Fee

IF THE VALUE OF THE (SMALL) PROBATE ESTATE IS AT LEAST

BUT IS LESS THAN

THE FEE IS

$0

$200

$2

$200

$5,000

1% of the value of the Small Estate

See Regular Estate Probate Fee For Small Estates Over $5,000