Probate is the legal process of identifying and distributing a person’s assets after their death. The probate process is complicated and, by definition, occurs after a family has lost a loved one. This means that probate often occurs while a family is grieving. That, combined with the fact that most people are unsure about the probate court hearing process and have questions about what happens at a probate court hearing, means that probate can be particularly challenging. Working with an experienced Nevada probate lawyer who knows what happens at a probate court hearing can make the process easier.
What Happens During the Probate Court Process?
To better understand what happens at a probate court hearing, it is beneficial to understand the people involved and their role in the probate court process.
- The decedent is the person who died.
- The estate refers to the money and property the decedent left behind.
- Heirs are the people who receive the decedent’s property when a person dies without a Will.
- Beneficiaries are the people designated to receive the decedent’s property in a person’s Will.
- The Estate Executor is the person named in the Will to manage the decedent’s estate and oversee the distribution of their property.
- An Estate Administrator is a person appointed by the probate court to oversee probate when the decedent died without a Will.
When discussing what happens at a probate hearing, it is important to understand the difference between someone who died with a Will and someone who died without a Will. A person who died with a Will is said to have died testate, while someone who died without a Will is said to be intestate.
Initiating the Probate Court Hearing Process
Under Nevada law, an estate representative must file the deceased person’s Will with the probate court within 30 days after the person died, even if a petition to file probate is not filed at the same time. The court will determine whether the Will is valid. There is no deadline to file probate in Nevada.
The Will must be filed in the county where the decedent lived. If there is no Will, the petition to file probate can be filed by any of the possible beneficiaries.
First Probate Court Hearing
At the first probate court hearing, the judge will decide whether to grant an Order to Admit Estate or a Will to Probate and issue Letters of Administration or Letters Testamentary. The Letters of Administration appoint a personal representative for the intestate estate and Letters Testamentary appoint a personal representative for a testate estate. They give the personal representative the legal authority to conduct business on behalf of the estate.
If the decedent died testate (with a Will), the Will likely named an Estate Executor. If the decedent died intestate (without a Will), the probate court will appoint an Estate Administrator.
Responsibilities of the Estate Representative
Once the court has named the estate representative, that person can begin the probate process. They will need to take an inventory of the estate, which means identifying the decedent’s assets and, in some cases, appraising and possibly liquidating some of them. The estate representative must send a Notice to Creditors and may need to transfer the title of some assets and file and pay estate taxes.
Once the estate representative has completed their duties, they will file an account with the court and file a petition for a final distribution, which triggers the second probate court hearing. This usually occurs between 9 and 12 months after the probate process was started.
Second Probate Court Hearing and Distribution
At the second probate court hearing, the judge will evaluate the petition for final distribution to ensure that all items in the original timeline have been satisfied. The judge will ensure that the personal representative fulfilled their duties and that all taxes and legitimate creditors have been paid. Once the judge is satisfied, they will approve the final distribution and issue an order to close the estate and make final distributions. Once the judge issues the final order, the estate representative can distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries and close the estate.
Does Every Estate Go Through the Probate Court Hearing Process?
Probate is expensive and time-consuming, and many people ask if they can avoid it. An experienced Nevada estate planning and probate lawyer can work with you to manage and title your assets to avoid probate.
If a loved one has died and you need help opening an estate and navigating the probate process, the Vander Laan Law Firm can help.
Contact a Nevada Probate Lawyer
With offices conveniently located in Minden and Carson City, Nevada, the Vander Laan Law Firm can explain what happens at a probate court hearing and guide you through the probate court hearing process. Contact the Vander Laan Law Firm today to learn more and schedule an appointment.