Probate is the legal process by which a deceased person’s estate is properly distributed to their heirs and designated beneficiaries and any debt owed to creditors is paid off. Typically, during this process, property is distributed according to the decedent’s last will and testament (if there is one) or according to state law if a will does not exist.
The probate process typically includes the following…
- Administrator is appointed – If there is a will, then then administrator would have been chosen ahead of time and is referred to as an executor. If there is no will or no executor named in the will, the probate court will appoint someone of its choice to act as the administrator.
- Validity is proven in court – State law governs the probate process, so it is important to follow state requirements for signatures, witnesses, and/or notaries to be certain your will is valid.
- Property is identified and inventoried – When an individual has passed away, then their assets will need to be identified, inventoried, and distributed accordingly. Most assets cannot be sold or distributed until the probate process is complete.
- Properties are appraised
- Any debts or taxes owed by the deceased are paid
- Remaining assets are distributed – The remaining assets are distributed according to the decedent’s wishes (if there is a will) or according to state law (if there is not a will).