What is Probate?
Probate is the process where the court supervises a transfer of a deceased person’s assets to the beneficiaries listed in his or her will, if a will was prepared. Before property can be distributed to the heirs of the deceased it must often pass through the Probate Court to make the transfer of these assets legal.
The Probate Court Process
When a person passes away (the “Decedent”) with ownership of valuable assets, the process of transferring those assets can be complicated. The person in charge of the transfer and distribution of assets is called an “executor.” The responsibilities of the executor include the following:
- Prove the authenticity of the Will
- Get Approved by the Court to Act on Behalf of the Estate
- Create an inventory of Decedent’s Assets
- Determine the Value of Decedent’s Assets (Appraisal)
- Pay Decedent’s Outstanding Debts/Taxes
- Distribute Assets According to Decedent’s Wishes
Probate is a particularly difficult process because of the emotional aspects involved with inventorying, valuing and distributing a loved one’s assets. Having an experienced probate attorney to work with can make the process run smoother, and take the uncertainty away.
How Long Does Probate Take?
Probate typically can not be completed in less than six months, and generally should not take more than one year. If the Probate process is to take more than one year, the executor or personal representative must file an estate tax return and provide a status report to the Court. Circumstances that lead to a longer probate process include:
- A Will Contest
- Changing of Executors
- Highly Complex Estate
- Large Number or Value of Estate Assets
- Hard to Find Beneficiaries
In these circumstances, probate can drag on for years, however, the involvement of a qualified probate attorney can often lead to faster solutions.