Probate is a legal proceeding that happens after a person passes away. It is the process of confirming the will is legitimate before the wishes are to be handled by the will executor. The reasons for probate can also include identifying and performing an inventory of property, getting the property appraised, paying any financial debts or taxes, and/or distributing assets based on state law if no will was created. An attorney can consult with family members about what to expect during probate.

General Process

In most cases, the process of probate starts by the will executor filing paperwork to probate court in which the validity of the will is determined. The executor provides the judge with lists of any debts, property, assets and who shall inherit what is left behind. The executor of the will has a very important role to play, as he or she must manage assets throughout the probate process. Examples of tasks an executor may have to complete include:

  • Meeting with family members regarding will
  • Safeguarding assets during the probate process
  • Notifying banks, government agencies or credit card companies of death
  • Maintaining property until it is sold or distributed
  • Representing the estate during probate court

Probate Timeline

Probate from beginning to end can last anywhere from several months to a year, or more. Depending on what is described in the will and how much debt is owed, the executor can decide to sell property or other assets. An executor may decide it is best to sell artwork, property or other valuables if money is needed to help pay off these outstanding debts.

Request of Family Members

In the majority of states, surviving family members can request to the court to receive fund support for the short term, until probate has finished. Because probate can last up to a year, immediate relatives may need money to help keep the family afloat. Once debts and taxes have been paid, the executor shall divide what is left among people or organizations as listed in the will. Lastly, the property can be sold and transferred to the new owners.

Downside to Probate

The probate process is not usually helpful for beneficiaries of the will, as it can cost them significant time and money. An estate attorney can provide guidance during this often frustrating, tiresome and prolonged proceeding. The last thing loved ones want to deal with is legalities as they are grieving from the loss of their cherished family member.