If you have been named the executor of a loved one's will, there are several reasons to file the will with the probate court. While it is a pretty common notion that probate is a long and drawn out process, it is a process for a reason, and it helps to protect executors as well as the estate from any unforeseen issues.
Some people take it upon themselves to pay their loved ones outstanding debts upon their death. While it is generous to keep your family members name and reputation in the clear, back owed taxes or medical bills, are not your responsibility. Even as the executor, you are not held accountable for their debts. However, you do have a very important role to play in the finalization of their estate.
By filing the will with probate, you are putting the responsibility of squaring up your loved one's debts in the hands of the probate court. One of the fundamental duties of the probate court is to pay all taxes and debts owed by the estate, as well as any other claims against the estate. After the probate court accounts for all of the estate property, pays debts and settles disputes, it will then distribute the property to heirs named in the will.
If you pay outstanding debts on behalf of the estate, you may be reimbursed for those by the probate court. The reimbursement will come out of the estate and if you are the only heir, filing a claim to be reimbursed may be pointless.
While the probate process is long and can hold assets from being distributed for a substantial amount of time, it is a good way to manage an estate if you are unsure of your duties and responsibilities as executor. If you are concerned with the probate process or are seeking reimbursement for debts you paid on behalf of the estate, speaking to a trusted attorney can help.