Probate is a legal process that follows the passing of an individual, ensuring their assets are distributed according to their wishes or state laws. Starting the probate process can seem daunting, but having the right documents in order is a crucial first step. If you plan on conducting a full estate, you will want to get as many of the following documents together as possible. Unsure of what kind of estate you need to open? Read our post on the types of probate estates in Connecticut.
- Death Certificate
- This document officially records the passing of the individual and is essential for various legal proceedings. It provides proof of death and is required to access and manage the deceased’s assets, including bank accounts, properties, and investments.
- Last Will and Testament
- The will outlines the deceased’s wishes regarding asset distribution, guardianship of minor children, and the appointment of an executor. Ensuring the will is legally valid is crucial. If there is no will, the court will administer the estate according to intestacy laws.
- Funeral Bill
- The funeral bill is required to be provided with the initial filing. It serves as further confirmation that the decedent has indeed passed away. Later in the process, the total cost of funeral expenses—including embalming, a wake, the funeral proceedings, burial, and any costs related to reception—is reported on the inventory accounting.
- Deeds for Real Property
- Even if the property is held as “joint tenants with rights of survivorship,” the Court requires that a copy of the Deed be filed with the initial pleadings. The Inventory of the Estate will reflect either half or all of the value of property held by the individual, depending on whether or not it is jointly owned.
- Title to Vehicles
- Similarly to Deeds to real property, the Deeds to vehicles allow for the calculation of vehicle value at time of death. This is critical to filing an accurate Inventory.
- In cases where the deceased established any trusts, the document may streamline the transfer of assets and expedite the distribution process. However, the assets held within the trust(s) may need to be disclosed during the probate process.
- Life Insurance Policies
- The proceeds from life insurance policies typically pass outside the probate process, directly to the named beneficiaries. Ensure you have the policy documents on hand to facilitate a smooth transfer of funds.
- Retirement Account Information: Navigating Complexities
- For individuals with retirement accounts such as IRAs or 401(k)s, having the account information and beneficiary designations is crucial. Retirement accounts often have specific rules governing their distribution, and having the necessary documentation ensures compliance with these regulations and expedites the transfer of assets to beneficiaries.
- Bank Statements and Bank Account Information
- This is vital to filing the Inventory. A bank statement covering the date of death will allow for an accurate reporting of the assets of the decedent on the day they passed. In addition, it is usually recommended to file a request with any banks that may have held funds in the decedent’s name to provide a formal Date of Death statement.
- Record of Any Gifts Made by Decedent While Alive
- Gifts that were made by the decedent during their lifetime (“inter vivos gifts”), especially those that were made closer to the time of passing, may have an effect on how estate assets are distributed after their death.
Every probate is different. The above-enumerated documents are relatively standard, but based on the type of estate, requirements may change.