The process of probate law fulfills an important function in legally approving an estate's will as the legal document dictating the distribution of the assets of a recently deceased person. Staying on top of the many different jobs that must be performed to satisfy probate court proceedings is difficult, especially when handling the affairs of your loved ones. Part of the process of probate includes publishing an advertisement notifying creditors of the recent death. Although the will remains a private document, public notice must be made in order to settle debts or other open accounts.
State Probate Law
Probate law, which governs the process by which a will is established and accepted as a legal document, differs from state to state. Some states, such as Alabama, Connecticut and Georgia, operate their own probate courts, which handle cases involving wills and estates. Most states, however, address probate cases in circuit court or superior court. You must follow state probate law, including any rules on publication of notices or petitioning the court to accept the will as a legal document, in order for the will to be processed correctly.
The personal representative of the estate is the person in charge of handling the will of the deceased. A personal representative can be appointed through the will itself or is appointed by the probate court. The personal representative is responsible for obtaining a copy of the will as well as a copy of the death certificate for the deceased; death certificate copies can be obtained by contacting your state's vital records office. Both of these documents must be submitted when petitioning the court to accept the will's legitimacy.
Notice to Creditors
After petitioning the probate court to accept the will, a personal representative next needs to draw up a Notice to Creditors, which must be published in a newspaper. The notice contains an announcement on the appointment of the personal representative and the personal representative's address and indicates the time frame that creditors have to file a claim against the estate. Creditors who do not establish a claim within this time period lose the right to file a claim for debts at any point in the future. State probate law regulates the creditor claim period as well as the time frame within which the Notice to Creditors must be published.
The Notice to Creditors needs to be published in a newspaper that the probate court deems as an acceptable newspaper of record. This typically will vary on a county by county basis; the newspaper used to publish the Notice to Creditors will likely be the same newspaper that the county uses to publish legal advertisements on other matters. The county newspaper of legal record must publish the Notice to Creditors once a week for a period of about one month.
- Financial Web: Probate Process -- How It Begins
- USLegal: What Form Is Needed to Release Funds to the Executor of the Estate to Pay the Bills?
- New York State Unified Court System. "Last Will and Testament." Accessed April 8, 2020.
- Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara. "About Probate - How to Probate a Decedent's Estate." Accessed April 8, 2020.
- Middlesex County New Jersey. "Surrogate." Accessed April 8, 2020.
- Hawaii State Judiciary. "Circuit Court Filing Fees and Costs," Page 2. Accessed April 8, 2020.
- Middlesex County New Jersey. "FAQ Surrogate - How Can I Get a Copy of a Will?" Accessed April 8, 2020.
- Huber Law Group. "Obtaining Records." Accessed April 8, 2020.