If you are named as the executor in your parent’s or spouse’s estate plan, you are probably honored that they trust you to handle such an important responsibility. At the same time, if you have never served as an executor before, you are facing an unknown and potentially intimidating legal process. You don’t want to make mistakes that cost money from the estate and take away from your loved one’s intentions regarding inheritances.
It could help if you at least have a broad sense of how probate — the process of getting a will approved in court — works in Nevada. A lot of this depends on the value of the estate that the deceased left behind.
How long can probate take?
Typically, probate takes at least 120-180 days and should begin as soon as possible after the person’s death, generally within 30 days. The process can be much shorter and simpler if the deceased’s assets totaled less than $20,000 and they passed away owning no real estate. And estates larger than $20,000 but smaller than $100,000 might be eligible for the probate judge to “set aside” to let the executor distribute the assets to the heirs without further court proceedings. But many people in Reno, especially homeowners, pass away with estates worth at least $100,000- large enough to require some form of probate.
Starting probate proceedings
The process begins with a relative making a court filing in district court, either called a Petition for Issuance of Letters Testamentary or Petition for Issuance of Letters of Administration. The executor must also submit the will (if the deceased left one) to the court. Next, the court will require the executor to publish creditor notices so that the deceased’s creditors can find out about the death and make claims on the estate. Depending on the number and size of debts the deceased left behind, settling these claims can become complicated and time-consuming.
Fortunately, if the deceased is survived by their spouse, that person can still access money in a joint bank account with right of survivorship. They will likely need to show the bank a certified copy of the death certificate and proof that the deceased was the same person who jointly owned the account.
Once the court accepts the will and all creditor claims have been settled, the executor can distribute the remaining assets to the heirs as the will instructs.
Help honoring your loved one’s legacy
Obviously, the process usually is much more detailed than this brief overview. Fortunately, as the executor, you can work with a probate attorney who knows the law and proceedings thoroughly and can be your guide and advocate.