Most of the articles advising you to avoid probate are directed at residents of states which have a much more complicated probate system than Maine’s system. Here, probating a will simply means filing the will with the Probate Court in the county where the decedent lived at the time of death, along with a fill-in-the blank application to accept the will and appoint the personal representative named in will to administer the estate. Upon receipt of the original will and the probate application, the Probate Court reviews the materials to ensure all information is complete and then issues letters of authority to the personal representative. If the paperwork is completed and no interested party objects, the letters of authority are issued to the personal representative without the need for any hearing in Probate Court.
The letters of authority give the personal representative the right to gather the assets of the decedent. After the assets are gathered, the personal representative is tasked with preparing an inventory and distributing the inventory to beneficiaries and other interested parties who request a copy. The inventory typically is not filed with the Probate Court. With the assets of the estate, the personal representative pays the debts of the decedent, including any taxes that may be owed. Creditors are permitted to file claims and the personal representative can choose to allow or disallow the filed claims depending on whether the claims are valid. When debts are paid and any disputes regarding claims are resolved, the personal representative is tasked with distributing the assets in accordance with the provisions of the will. Once the assets are distributed, the personal representative provides an accounting to each of the beneficiaries. Although the accounting is often filed with the Probate Court, along with a request to close the estate, there typically is very little involvement from the Probate Court in the process unless a beneficiary objects or a dispute over a claim arises.
The process requires more involvement from the Probate Court when the decedent does not have a will. To keep costs down and to streamline the process for beneficiaries, every person over the age of 18 should have a will.
If you need any assistance probating an estate or preparing a will, please contact Skelton, Taintor & Abbott to meet with an attorney.
This article is not legal advice but should be considered as general guidance in the area of estate planning. Darcie P.L. Beaudin, Jill A. Checkoway, and Bryan M. Dench are Trust & Estate Planning attorneys; others at the firm handle business and other matters. You can contact us at 207.784.3200. Skelton Taintor & Abbott is a full service law firm providing legal services to individuals, companies, and municipalities throughout Maine. It has been in operation since its founding in 1853.