Many people create a Last Will and Testament. But most don’t know exactly what happens after they pass away. Are other legal forms required for the Will to be triggered? What needs to occur so the Executor can write checks and distribute assets to the Beneficiaries per the terms of the Will?

In order for an Executor to be able to pay the decedent’s expenses and make distributions under the Will, he or she must first receive authority from the Probate Court to do so.

When a person dies with a valid Will, a probate estate must be opened in Probate Court, which requires the filing of certain probate forms. Different states and localities have different probate forms that must be used. In most cases, an Executor will need to apply to the Court to have the authority to administer the estate and carry out the terms set forth in the Will.

Next, the Probate Court will allow for the distribution of non-monetary assets as outlined within the Will.

Then, the Probate Court will grant the Executor (by court order) access to the decedent’s funds in one of two ways:

1) the decedent’s bank account can be re-named in the name of the decedent’s estate; or

2) a new bank account can be created in the name of the estate, with money from the decedent’s personal account transferred into the new account. From the estate’s account, the Executor can then write checks.

Finally, the Executor will need to provide the Probate Court with a listing and explanation of all amounts paid from the decedent’s estate, known as an accounting. Only legitimate and proper expenses
will be approved by the Probate Court.

Once the probate estate is administered per the terms of the Will (and according to the rules established by the probate court), the probate court will approve the work of the Executor and grant authority to close the probate estate.

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