Probate: Explained

What is Probate? Today, we’re going to explain everything that you need to know about probate and why it is important to know about it and how it works.


What Is Probate?


Probate is the process of proving to a court of law that a deceased person’s “last will and testament” is legitimately their last will and testament. When presenting a will, you have to prove that the deceased knew what it was for, signed it under his or her own free will, that they were mentally competent at the time of the signing, and that it was done in front of legitimate witnesses.


Probate then involves receiving authority from the court to gather the assets stated in the will to pay the deceased person’s debts and obligations, as well as distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries named within the will. Every State has its own unique set of procedures when it comes to approving the will and handling a deceased person’s estate, although in general, every State goes about it in a very similar way.


The Procedure


After the document has been filed in court, the court requires that sufficient notice be given to anyone who will or would be entitled to inherit a part or all of the deceased person’s estate. If it comes out that the document Isn’t a valid will, this will give them the opportunity to state possible objections, which might include a claim that the document was a forgery, that it wasn’t signed by the defendant, that it wasn’t properly witnessed, or even that the deceased was mentally incompetent or otherwise subjected to an outside influence. Although it is relatively rare that someone with the proper standing would come into court and object to the will, in the case of it actually happening, the probate court will typically make a “legal finding” that the will was either proved or not proved, and that the document is or isn’t the actual deceased’s last will and testament.


What Happens Next?


After this, within six to eight weeks, the will is officially accepted for probate and the court issues formal legal documents appointing the person named in the will as executor or personal representative, and this person holds full legal power and authority to administer the deceased’s estate, this including paying bills, paying taxes and beginning to distribute the deceased’s estate to the named beneficiaries in the will.


In the case that the deceased person left minor children, and most especially if the other parent is not in the picture or also deceased, the probate court judge will also appoint the person the deceased nominated in the will to be the child’s legal guardian and the Guardian of their property if needed. The court will also set up procedures to safeguard their assets until the minor children turn 18, or otherwise reach the later age as the will states, this depending upon what the will says and state law provides.


The probate court may also require periodic reports. This is to make sure that the executor has done what the will states, or to require prior approval for extraordinary transactions, if only to protect the interests of the beneficiaries.


Don’t Panic


If you’re reading this and getting lost, don’t panic. Probate is rarely as scary, as complicated, as time consuming or even as expensive as many people assume.


Yes, understanding the way probate works can be scary, but we hope that this article will help ease the stress of trying to figure everything out and has provided direction and the information you need to succeed.


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