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What Is Probate?

Probate is the legal procedure one’s estate goes through after one passes away. During this legal proceeding, a court will start allocating one’s estate to the proper successors. Probate is always more straightforward if one has a Will or Living Trust that clearly defines one’s wishes. These documents help most by naming one’s beneficiaries and an Executor. An Executor is a person charged with overseeing one’s final wishes.

Deeper Definition

Probate is the court-supervised process of authenticating a last will or a testament if the deceased made one. It includes locating and determining the value of the person’s assets, paying their final bills or debt to anyone who might have lent them money in their lifetime, removing taxes, and distributing the remainder of the estate to their rightful beneficiaries. In cases where there is no Will (meaning one’s estate is intestate), this process becomes more complicated because there is no documentation stating one’s final wishes. It is up to the courts to handle proceedings and make all decisions for the deceased.

Most states have laws in place that require anyone who has the deceased’s will to file it with the probate court as soon as possible. A petition to open probate of the estate is usually done at the same time. Sometimes it is necessary to file the death certificate, the will, and the petition.

In many cases, it’s possible to avoid probate, depending on state law and the types of assets involved. For instance, spouses may jointly own property. When one spouse passes, the other may become the sole owner of the property. Insurance policies and investment accounts generally allow the naming of beneficiaries. In this case, beneficiaries are entitled to the assets in these accounts without going through probate.

Probate Example

Upon the death of lieutenant Johnson, the family was thrown into a frenzy as he made no will regarding his estate. No one could blame him. He was young and healthy until the ghastly accident claimed his life. His wife, Mrs. Johnson, was nevertheless advised to seek the service of the court, who appointed an executor to oversee the probate process. Part of his assignment was to locate all the deceased’s estate, offset pending debts and distribute the rest of the property to rightful beneficiaries.

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