How Are Taxes Handled In Probate?

When the executor is appointed, they have the responsibility to file the deceased person’s final 1040 income tax return by April 15th of the next year. The probate will actually have its own tax ID number and will file its own income tax return, a Form 1041. The executor will file that final 1041 tax return and that will close out the estate and pretty much handle the tax portion of the probate process.

What Are Some Barriers Faced During the Probate Process? 

In California, generally speaking, if an executor follows the law and is represented by competent counsel, fights are rare. When fights happen, it’s generally at the beginning of the process when someone contests the will or there is a concern over whether someone is owed money or not.

Once the process has started, it generally goes according to procedure in California; the good thing about California is, there is a lot of regulation. That’s also a bad thing in some respects, because it makes the process very long and tedious, but it protects both the executor and the beneficiaries. In terms of really what you can expect, once probate is opened, there is very little to fight about unless the deceased person had a claim against someone and you have to prosecute that lawsuit on their behalf as executor of the estate.  But otherwise, it’s not too bad.

What Are Some Ways You Help Remove the Emotional Aspect?

I always try to sit down with people and get them to understand that I can help them to separate the process from the emotional component and give them the help they need. So many think they don’t need a grief counselor, or that other people are not handling things well, but the death of a loved one is often sudden; something no one saw coming, and there is an emotional part of this and it needs to be handled.

A lot of times people come in and they want to do the probate right away and they want to do this and do that and they’re really not in a position, emotionally, to do that. I try to get them to settle down and deal with the last illness expenses, make sure the funeral and memorial service are being handled, and to make sure any children are being taken care of before we move into the legal and financial aspects of the situation.

The best way I can put it is, how do you eat an elephant? The answer is, you eat it one bite at a time and that’s what we do; we just methodically go through the process and say okay; these are the individual assets, this is what we need to do with each one, one thing at a time, in order to handle probate.  Once we do that, it gets a heck of a lot easier.

What Would You Consider to be the Most Important Thing About Probate?

People should always keep in mind that probate is a long and detailed process, designed to be for an orderly distribution and management of a deceased person’s estate. It is there to protect the beneficiaries and to provide creditors with an opportunity to get paid.

In California, the process is an orderly system of distribution that happens to be quite expensive, although it all can be avoided if people would just take the time and do their estate planning prior to death.

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