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A Look at Probate

What is Probate

Probate is a legal process in which a judge inside the court system will determine if a last will and testament of a deceased person is authentic and valid or if all or part of it can be contested by family members. Probate is also necessary when there is no legal will and the deceased left behind substantial assets that need to be distributed fairly to the next of kin or others, such as a charity.

The Probate Executor

When probate is necessary, an executor of the deceased’s estate must be appointed to manage the distribution of all known assets. Typically, an executor is already listed in a person’s last will and testament, but if there is no will, an executor will be appointed by the judge. Usually this would be a spouse or the closest blood relative. In some cases, the executor must post a bond before they are able to legally represent a person’s estate, but in some states, beneficiaries can reject the bond requirements.


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Duties of the Probate Executor

The executor of an estate takes on many responsibilities and duties. The first one is locating all of a deceased person’s assets and calculating their total worth. Afterwards, a portion of the assets will be used to pay off any outstanding debts to creditors with valid claims of unpaid debts. The balance of the estate’s worth will then be distributed out to the deceased’s closest family members. Any family member or person with an interest in the estate can contest anything they don’t agree with, such as a real estate appraisal, a particular asset’s value, or the distribution of an asset.

The Probate Process

The probate process is a long and arduous process that can be very trying on the friends and family of the deceased. A settlement through probate could take years for the issues of a will to be debated and processed. During this time, the family may be struggling with financial issues that they could not handle on their own. In these cases, the court may release a small amount of funds as support for the family. It is the job of probate attorneys to help ease difficult issues and monitor the entire probate process for fairness.


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Create an Estate Plan to Avoid Probate

The probate process is a complicated aspect of the legal system that could potentially cause a great amount of grief when a will is not set up properly or not at all. To avoid this, work with an estate planning professional to create a plan that will ensure everything runs smoothly in the event of sudden death. Creating a will should be a part of every estate plan and will prevent strife and conflict within the family after you’re gone.