Probate is simply a legal process designed to ensure a decedent’s property and assets are distributed in accordance with his or her will, or in accordance with state statutes should there be no will in place. It is important to understand that probate cannot be avoided through the creation of a will. A will serves to simplify the probate process (saving time and money for your loved ones), set forth your final wishes, and reduce the possibility for litigation. Probate cannot be avoided unless you have created a living trust—a legal mechanism for transferring your property and assets according to your wishes upon death (see Types of Trusts for more information).
According to New Mexico probate law, the general steps of probate are as follows:
Determine if there is a will. Different forms are used depending on whether a person died testate (with a will) or intestate (without a will).
File proper forms with the probate court. A list of forms can be found here. An experienced New Mexico probate lawyer can help you determine the appropriate forms to file for your situation.
Determine who is the personal representative (executor) named in the will. This person will be responsible for carrying out the directives set forth in the will. Personal representatives are entitled to reasonable compensation from the estate.
Personal representative must send out a notice identifying their appointment and informing the public that probate has begun on the decedent’s estate. This enables people who may have a right to the decedent’s property to be informed of what’s going on.
Personal representative must notify creditors that the estate is being probated. You are required to notify creditors that you are aware of. Keep in mind that you can shorten the time period that unknown creditors have to make claims on the decedent’s estate by publishing a notice in the newspaper.