Indiana Probate Attorney

New Albany Probate lawyers in Southern Indiana and Kentucky

The word “probate” is vaguely familiar to many people, yet it is also often incorrectly defined. It’s an unwieldy term with Latin roots meaning “something proved,” and while probate can involve a determination of whether a will is valid, it can occur even when there isn’t a will. On a more general scale, it refers to the way an estate is administered and processed through the legal system. The average time to complete probate in Indiana and in Kentucky is six to twelve months, though it can take longer if the estate is very large, the estate continues to earn large amounts of income, or if there is a court challenge over the will.

Probate and its related issues can result in highly complex legal issues. Whether you are in doubt about your rights and responsibilities, or simply do not know where to start, talk to the skilled Kentuckiana probate attorneys at McNeely Stephenson. Offering decades of experience along with friendly, personal service, we have guided many people through the probate process efficiently and effectively.

To discuss your situation and options, contact our office by calling 812-725-8224 or filling out our online form.

In legal terms, the “decedent” is the person who has passed away and whose estate must now be probated. If there was a will, then the decedent is also the “testator” – the person who made the will. A “beneficiary” is someone who gets property under the will, and an “executor” is the person named in the will as the one selected to oversee the paying of any debts owed by the estate and the distribution of the testator’s property according to the will.

If there is a will, it must be proven valid in court before it can be accepted. In Indiana, probate matters are handled at the local county circuit court, except for Marion County, which has a separate probate court. In Jefferson County, Kentucky, probate is also handled through a specialized probate court.  If there is no will, the court applies state laws of intestacy to figure out the hierarchy of how to distribute the decedent’s assets and appoints an administrator to act as the estate’s personal representative. Probate begins when the executor files the will and a document called a “petition for probate” in the county where the decedent lived (if the decedent was not a resident of the state where real estate was found, then the papers should be filed in the county where the real estate is located).

The executor is issued a document called “letters testamentary,” granting him or her authority over the estate as well as the title of “personal representative.”

Only assets solely owned by the decedent are subject to probate. Common examples include personal property, cash, and property held as tenants in common. The probate estate does not include payable-on-death bank accounts, securities and vehicles named in transfer-on-death forms, life insurance proceeds that specify a beneficiary, retirement accounts that designate a beneficiary, or assets that are jointly owned with a right of survivorship. Any obligations owed by the decedent must be paid before the beneficiaries receive their share. Creditors are typically paid in the following order: estate administration costs, family allowances, funeral expenses, taxes, and debts.

In Indiana, there are two simplified probate processes for small estates that can expedite transfer of the decedent’s property:

  1. If the total probate estate is worth no more than $50,000 plus reasonable funeral expenses, the personal representative can distribute assets according to the will and then file a closing statement with the court.
  1. If the total probate estate is worth no more than $50,000, any beneficiary who inherits personal property (NOT real estate) from the decedent can prepare an affidavit explaining why he or she is entitled to it. The beneficiary then presents the affidavit and the decedent’s death certificate to the institution that possesses the property for transfer.

Indiana and Kentucky law also allows for supervised and unsupervised estate administration. Unsupervised administration means that the court does not need to oversee the process because there are no disputes, the estate is solvent (has more assets than debts), the personal representative is qualified, the beneficiaries agree to it, and the will either doesn’t request supervision or does request not being supervised. More complicated and more expensive than unsupervised administration, supervised administration is preferable if beneficiaries are arguing, the will is not clear, there are assets that are difficult to value or sell, or there is no will and the heirs are unknown. Under supervised administration, a personal representative is appointed and property cannot be sold or distributed without court approval.

Coping with the loss of a loved one is hard enough without also having to deal with the additional stress of managing that person’s estate. The experienced Kentuckiana probate lawyers at McNeely Stephenson can help. We understand the issues and can guide you through the process. We will work closely with you and assist you in making the best decisions possible for your unique situation. We have worked with many families, and we look forward to working with yours. For skilled and knowledgeable representation, contact us by calling 812-725-8224 or filling out our online form.  Based in New Albany, Indiana, we proudly serve communities throughout Kentuckiana; Floyd County, IN; and Clark County, IN and Jefferson County, KY.