What Are the Steps to Probate Court in Indiana?

When somebody dies, heirs do not receive their inheritance right away. Instead, the will must go through the probate process. This process differs from state to state; it involves the court determining that the will is valid and the executor of the estate settling all the estate's debts prior to distributing inheritances. In Indiana, the probate process takes about a year to complete, though it can take longer if any heir contests the validity of the will.

Hire Probate Attorney

If you are the executor of an estate in Indiana, contact a probate attorney to file a petition for probate in the Indiana Probate Court. If the deceased person had an attorney to assist with drafting the will, you may use that attorney as your probate attorney, or you may hire a different attorney of your choice. Your attorney should specialize in wills and probate so that he can offer you guidance through the probate process.

Inform Others

The executor of the estate and her attorney are responsible for informing those involved in probate of the probate hearing. Specifically, the executor or her attorney must mail written notices to all heirs named in a will. The probate team must also run an ad in the legal section of a local newspaper for four weeks announcing the death to inform creditors. Creditors and heirs can object to the appointment of the executor while the ad is running.

First Hearing

At the first probate hearing, the judge examines the signature on the will to ensure it is valid and may ask witnesses to testify as to the will's validity. If anyone objects to the appointment of the executor, he can make this objection at the hearing and the judge will consider it. At the end of this hearing, the judge officially appoints an executor of the will.

Settling the Estate

The executor of the will is responsible for settling the estate over the course of the next year. The executor must file a tax return on the estate's assets if the estate qualifies for taxation. After paying estate taxes, the executor must pay off the estate's debts. If the estate does not have enough assets to pay off all the debts, the executor must use estate funds to pay off debts to employees and secured debts before attempting to pay off unsecured debts and notify creditors if the estate does not have assets to pay a particular debt.

Accounting With Court

Once the executor has finished settling the estate, she must file a report with the court explaining all payments she made out of the estate's assets and stating how much the estate is worth after settlement, if anything. The court reviews the report and authorizes the executor to distribute inheritances to heirs if there are sufficient assets to do so. The executor then distributes the inheritances and the attorney files a motion to close the estate with the probate court. The court will review the final distribution and close the estate if the accounting is accurate.