Avoiding Legal Trouble

How An Estate Progresses Through Probate

Probate is the ancient process of dealing with an estate. Even though many today use various methods to avoid probate, being able to skip it entirely is not usually possible. Each state has its own probate laws but the below should provide a general guideline on what to expect.

The Will is Filed

Almost everyone has a will but, interestingly enough, probate will proceed even if there is no will. If your loved one passed away and a will was found, speak to a probate lawyer. The lawyer will read to will to anyone mentioned in the will and explain what will happen next. In most states, a notice will be placed in a local newspaper inviting anyone who thinks the estate owes them money to step forward.

If a will is not found and you are certain that no will exists or that it will never be located, speak to a probate lawyer. Though the process varies by state, the probate lawyer will file paperwork with the county probate court indicating that no last will and testament is available. This is sometimes referred to as filing an estate administration. The court will appoint a person to be the personal representative.

What Happens Next?

Probate can take several months to process. Part of the time is spent making sure that anyone owed money by the estate has made themselves known. If the will is contested, which means a person files a protest to some aspect of the will, the time to get to a final ruling can be extended considerably.

The personal representative has several duties during probate. They will be working alongside the probate lawyer and the court to carry out these duties:

  • Make an inventory of the estate contents including the value of real estate and more.
  • Making the estate safe. That means keeping it secure and in good repair.
  • Making decisions about selling estate property when necessary.
  • Readying a home to be sold if necessary.
  • Paying certain bills of the estate. Some bills may not ever be paid but many should be paid after consulting with the probate lawyer.

As Probate Closes

Once an appropriate amount of time has passed, the probate court will officially close the probate and relieve the personal representative of their duties. The beneficiaries will be provided with access to their inheritances and the ownership of all property will be transferred.

Speak with a probate law professional to learn more about any of the above.