What Is Probate?

What Is Probate?

When a person dies, their last will and testament (assuming they prepared on in advance) is handled and their wishes for the distribution of their personal property implemented through a process called probate.

Probate simply means the procedure by which their last written directives are legally certified as the final statement of their wishes regarding their worldly possessions (including any property or properties they may have owned). It also confirms the appointment of a person or entity the deceased person selected to administer their estate.  The term probate is also frequently used to refer to the entire process of “probating” an estate.  In this usage, it refers to the entire process that gathers all available assets, pays any outstanding debts, taxes, administrative expenses and then finally makes the specified distribution of remaining assets to those persons or entities designated by the will.

The personal representative (also known as the executor or executrix) who is named in the will is legally in charge of this process and is responsible for handling the orderly method for administration of the estate as set forth by the probate laws and procedures of their state. The executor is typically held accountable for their actions and decisions by the heirs and other beneficiaries and in some cases may be formally supervised by a probate court. If a will does not exist or a personal representative is not designated in the will, the court will appoint one.


This is where the probate case is filled with the court and they appoint wither an executor or an administrator.

During this phase a will is produced if there is one or by matters of law they figure out who is going to be the executor or administrator of the estate. This usual happens in the first month or two. The appointment phase is complete when the court issues letters of testentary or letters of administration. Those letters are going to be needed by the title company for closing a transaction because they tell what powers the executor or administrator possesses. 


This is the phase where the administrator or executor is going to search for all debts, seek out and notify creditors, debtors, assets of the estate and check the validity of all debts. 

They may have to liquidate some assets in the estate in order to pay some debts, or produce liquidity. They are going to resolve the debtor issues and claims on the estate as well as resolve inheritance issues. Depending on the complexity of the probate case, issues with the heirs, quantity and types of assets and debts, this could be a long process. Typically this takes place in months two through eight in the average probate case. 



This is the phase in which the executor or administrator gives the final report to the court. 

They will give an accounting to the court and to the beneficiaries. Additionally this is the phase in the process where they actually distribute the remaining assets in the estate to the beneficiaries based on the will or the law. The last thing that takes place is closing the case. This typically occurs in month nine to twelve in an average one year probate.  


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