Probate is the legal process wherein the estate of a deceased person is distributed to beneficiaries, usually their family, friends, and loved ones. The probate process may differ in each state, but the following aims are generally accomplished in probate:
- Verification that the deceased person’s will is valid
- Identification and inventorying of the person’s property
- Appraisal of property (if necessary)
- Paying off of the deceased person’s taxes and outstanding debts
- Distribution of property to the correct parties
As you may be able to tell, probate is a very comprehensive process and can be quite complex. The entire process may take anywhere from 1-3 years depending on the size of the person’s estate.
What Is Required to Probate a Will?
While many of the steps will be completed by the probate court, you may need to do various tasks before even filing, such as:
- Locating the will
- Determining whether the person owned real property
- Determining whether your state probates wills, and whether it’s required or not. Some states offer multiple ways to probate a will, such as formal, informal, or supervised probate options
- Determining who the executor or administrator of the estate is. This is usually listed in the will documents
- Filing for an appointment with your local probate court. Make sure you’re filing in the correct location.
After the appointment has been confirmed, you should bring all of the important documents with you to the court, including the list of assets, the will, the list of beneficiaries, and the person’s death certificate
What If There Is a Will Contest?
A will contest is where one or more persons disagree with what is written in the deceased person’s will. For example, a common dispute is where several family members are laying claim to a piece of property. This can happen if the property is particularly expensive, or if it has great sentimental value to the parties.
In such cases, the will contest may also be handled by the probate court. Each party would need to provide evidence in support of their claim. In most jurisdictions, courts prefer to distribute property according to terms that are listed in a valid will document.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Will Probate Proceedings?
Will probate laws can be very different from region to region. If you need assistance in filing with the probate court, you may wish to speak with an estate lawyer immediately. Your attorney near you can provide you with sound legal advice on how to navigate the probate court system in your area. In the event of any will contests or legal disputes, your attorney will be able to defend your interests in a court of law.