If you’re a North Dakota resident who’s recently lost a loved one, you may be responsible for opening probate on their estate. While the process may seem complicated, knowing the steps could make it easier.
Opening a probate estate
First, determine if probate is necessary; in some cases, it isn’t. For example, if the deceased left behind a small estate or if all of their assets were held jointly with a surviving spouse, you may not need to do anything.
Fill out paperwork and notify interested parties
If you do have to open probate, start by filing the necessary paperwork with the court. The exact paperwork varies by state, but it will typically include an application to open the estate and a petition for probate. Once the paperwork has been filed, interested parties like creditors and beneficiaries will need to be notified of the proceedings. This can typically be done via certified mail. Once interested parties have been notified, the court will appoint a personal representative, also known as an executor, to oversee the estate administration.
Pay debts and distribute remaining assets
The personal representative will then need to collect and inventory all of the deceased’s assets. This includes physical property like houses and vehicles and financial assets like bank accounts and investments. The personal representative will use the assets of the estate to pay any outstanding debts and taxes owed by the deceased.
Once debts and taxes have been paid, the personal representative will distribute any remaining assets among the beneficiaries named in the deceased’s will or, if there was no will, among their next of kin. Once all assets have been distributed, the personal representative can file a petition to close the estate with the court.
While losing a loved one is never easy, understanding how to open a probate estate doesn’t have to add to your stress levels.