Probate is a legal process that takes place after someone dies. It includes:
Typically, probate involves paperwork and court appearances by lawyers. The lawyers and court fees are paid from estate property, which would otherwise go to people who inherit the deceased person's property.
Probate usually works like this: After your death, the person you named in your Will as executor - or, if you don't have a Will, the person appointed by a judge - files papers in the local probate court. The executor proves the validity of your Will and presents the court with a list of your property, your debts, and who is to inherit what you've left. Then, relatives and creditors are officially notified of your death.
Your executor must find, secure and manage your assets during the probate process, which commonly takes about a year. Eventually, the court will grant your executor permission to pay your debts and taxes and divide the rest among the people or organizations named in your Will. Finally, your property will be transferred to its new owners.
No. Most states allow a certain amount of property to pass free of probate, or through a simplified probate procedure. In addition, property that passes outside of your Will - say through a joint tenancy or a living trust - is not subject to probate.
In most circumstances, the executor in the Will takes this job. If there isn't any Will, or the Will fails to name an executor, the probate court names someone (called an administrator) to handle the process - most often the closest capable relative, or the person who inherits the bulk of the deceased person's assets.
For most estates the process can take many months, even when there are no objections to the Will and the estate is uncomplicated. If the estate is large or there are significant problems, such as estate tax controversies or an attempt to challenge the Will, it can take years.
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