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What does a probate judge do?

On Behalf of | Sep 8, 2021 | estate administration & probate |

When entering an Indiana probate court, the beneficiaries and the executor might not know what to expect. Probating a will involves distributing assets and paying creditors, among other matters. A probate judge oversees the proceedings, but not everyone may understand the role a judge plays. In general, a judge presides over the administration of the estate under Indiana law.

The judge oversees the proceedings

A judge would likely make sure the will is valid under Indiana law. If not, or there is no will, the judge then oversees the administration based on intestate laws. The estate remains open until creditors receive payments, beneficiaries receive their assets, a representative files tax returns with the state and federal government, and other duties.

Many duties associated with carrying out the estate’s requirements fall on the executor’s shoulders. An executor and an attorney may prepare an inventory of assets and statements that prove creditors received payments. The judge would receive a notification about inventories and the settlement of obligations.

Other matters a probate judge may handle

The will could address adoptions and guardianships. A judge’s decision would likely factor into these complicated matters.

Someone might contest the will, turning the estate administration & probate process into a matter of civil litigation. A probate judge presides over the litigation and renders decisions. For example, if it turns out someone forced a testator to sign a will under duress, the judge could invalidate the will. A judge might uphold the will without changes when the contesting party cannot prove its case or lacks standing.

If the executor of the estate fails in his or her responsibilities, someone might take legal action. A judge could remove an incompetent or unethical executor.

The judge may eventually make a final ruling to close probate and terminate the estate. At that point, the legal proceeding generally ends.