If probate is necessary, someone must come forward to start the process. If there’s a will, the executor named in the will should do this. If there’s no will, or the executor is not available, then usually a family member asks the court to be appointed as the “administrator” of the estate.
The executor’s job will probably last no less than a year. The executor files the will, along with a document called a “Petition for Probate” and many other forms to get the process started. When everything is in order to the judge’s liking, the court issues “Letters Testamentary” or “Letters of Administration,” appointing an executor and granting that person authority over estate assets.
Once the executor has this authority, the executor must gather the decedent’s assets, verify valid creditors of the estate, apply for a taxpayer ID number for the estate, and open an estate bank account. The executor will need to compile, and file with the court, an inventory and appraisal of all probate property. The probate court appraiser will be assigned to assist in the appraisal of all probate property. Finally, when all bills and taxes have been paid, the executor must file another petition and ask the court to close the estate. That’s when the executor can finally distribute all the estate assets to the people who inherit them.