You may have heard of the term “probate” in concepts related to estate, but it’s not a word that is explained all the time. According to FindLaw, “probate” is the legal process that involves transferring property from one person to another after the former’s passing.

Probate is often associated with the distribution, management, and collection of an estate, and as such can have its own set of legalities to deal with.

Legally speaking, probate is a process that sorts out the transfer of properties of a person after their passing. Sometimes, some property is immediately passed on to another party upon the passing of the person who owns it. For instance, totten trusts or payable on death accounts, life insurance policies, and other trusts can avoid probate by automatically transferring ownership upon the owner’s passing, or  transferring ownership to a beneficiary before passing.

What Happens in Probate

When it comes to the probate process, it may be uncontested or contested. These issues normally arise when someone seeks a larger share of the property of the person who passed than what they’ve initially received. These arguments normally involve the decedent not following the right legal processes, not knowing what they were doing while the will was being executed, or not receiving sound advice. Most probated estates are uncontested, however. The process of probate is as follows:

  • The decedent’s probate property is collected, and all taxes, claims, and debts owed by the estate are paid.
  • All rights to income, dividends, and other fees are collected.
  • When all disputes are settled, the remaining property is transferred or distributed to heirs.

This process is normally handled or managed by an executor, a person the decedent has declared. However, the court will appoint what is called a personal administrator or representative to fix these matters if no executor has been made.

In most cases, anyone can leave property to any person they wish. However, some situations may require that the court intervene in the process. Sometimes, for instance, creditors may have claims to an estate’s property, and as such they will have a particular period of time to process a claim.

Should You Make a Will?

When it comes to wills, creating one doesn’t necessarily mean you are actively planning for your death. It’s simply a formal way of being able to express your wishes of how your property should be distributed after your passing. Whether you have small amount of property or assets, have minor children, are married or single, or whatever your specific situation, if you’re an adult it might be helpful to have a will. You will then be able to control just how your assets will be distributed upon death. If you haven’t formalized your will, the grief of your survivors might be compounded by costly and unnecessary litigation.

The Importance of the Probate Process

Remember, it’s important to remember that the probate process is there in order to help you settle all potential disputes you and other parties may have about property that has yet to be distributed. Probate can become confusing when claims, disputes, and payments are involved. However, generally speaking, the probate process exists to ensure there are legal means for the wishes of a decedent to be met regarding their properties. If you have additional questions or concerns, consult a lawyer, or click here, for legal assistance related to probate.

About The Author

Donn Schlosser