The information needed to complete a probate varies, depending on the complexity of the Estate and the Estate Plan, and whether the Estate will be required to file a Federal Estate Tax Return. If the Estate is clearly not required to file an estate tax return (all assets plus life insurance will be under $1,000,000) you may expect a simple probate or estate settlement. Before a probate can be started, you must provide the following information:
- Death Certificate.
- Original Will and any Codicils, and any revocable Living Trust and amendments.
- A summary of the non-probate assets (with estimated values). These are the assets that pass directly to a survivor or a beneficiary other than the estate (such as life insurance, an IRA, a joint account with survivorship rights). Assets titled in a Living Trust are all non-probate assets. These are the assets that you can access before the probate, but Ms. Cathey urges you not to withdraw these assets except for basic living expenses before you see her.
- A summary of the probate assets (with estimated values). These are the assets that do not pass directly to a survivor or a beneficiary (such as real estate, autos, stock that is not deposited with a broker, accounts that do not have a pay-on-death beneficiary, and anything payable to the "estate" on death).
- A list of descendants and others who take under the terms of the Will or Trust. If the Decedent died without a Will or Trust, then a list of the "heirs" that clearly sets out formal names, addresses, ages, and relationship. Draw a family tree if you need to.
- Copies of the last income tax return of the Decedent, all prior gift tax returns, and any other trusts as to which the Deceased was a Trustor or a beneficiary; and
- Copies of all deeds, titles, most recent account statements (and signature cards) for each bank or brokerage account, and the date of death value or balance for each such asset. If land was inherited, and there is no deed into the Decedent, find the Will or Court Order that awarded the property to the Decedent, and any Inventory associated with that proceeding. At the very least, bring a recent tax appraisal statement.