Probate Explained: Importance, Definitions and Timelines

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If you are pulling your hair out trying to understand the probate process, you aren’t alone. Probate is the process in which the court makes sure that a deceased person’s debts are paid and remaining assets are distributed to the correct beneficiaries. The term probate is used to describe the legal process that manages the assets and liabilities left behind by a recently deceased person.

We go over the most critical things to look out for if you are going through the probate process from possibilities to receive early distribution and all the involved parties. The probate terms you need to know, how long probate takes, and much more.

We’ll start with covering the basics.

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What is probate?

Probate is the term for a legal process that occurs at the county level where a person passes away that has assets without a named beneficiary on the account. During probate, it is determined if there is a will and if it is authentic, however, an estate can go through probate even if there is a will. The assets must have a clear beneficiary to pass to upon the owner’s death. If there is not a named beneficiary on the account, the assets go through probate where they are administered, creditors are paid and the wishes of the person passing occurs. If there is no will then each state has guidelines for how the deceased person’s assets are distributed.  

In other words, probate is the court-supervised process whereby a decedent’s assets are distributed to a decedent’s heirs and creditors are paid back after s/he dies. The legal process of administering a decedent’s estate. Also, a judicially supervised process for marshaling a decedent’s assets, paying proper debts, and distributing the remaining assets to heirs. This court process is what is commonly referred to as probate. 

After the owner of an asset dies, the court must be petitioned for a probate case to be opened and an executor must be appointed that is in charge of administering the estate. Administering an estate is the process of doing an inventory of estate assets, paying taxes like federal estate taxes, inheritance taxes and estate taxes at the state level if needed. Other liabilities are also handled at this time like payment to creditors and other necessary expenses from the estate and finally distributing the assets of the estate to the heirs and beneficiaries of the estate. 

How Probate Works

Since probate is the analysis and transfer of estate assets previously owned by a deceased person, there are steps and a process defined by the state in which the person passed away which dictates how the administration of the estate is handled. When a person dies, his or her assets are commonly reviewed by a probate court. The probate court oversees the handling of the estate until it is distributed to heirs, beneficiaries and ultimately closed. An attorney will typically open the probate administration and then an executor is appointed to handle the probate process and distribution of estate assets after an inventory of assets takes place.

In many cases, the deceased person has established documentation, which contains instructions on how their assets should be distributed after death which is commonly known as a will. However, in some cases, the deceased does not leave a will and in that case, it’s important to understand how your state handles the distribution of assets. 

What is involved In The Probate Process

There are many vital steps in probate and questions that you might have. We created an easy infographic that lays out the entire probate process.

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Probate Process

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We have more full articles listed below which explain in great detail what is involved in each part of probate. All of the pieces of probate are important.

Probate with a Will

The executor is responsible for filing the will with the probate court and initiating a process to prove its authenticity. The deceased person who has provided a will is known as testator, which can be any relative that predeceased them or an appointed financial advisor. A state may have different rules on how long after death one must file their last wishes in order for it to become legally binding: typically within six months of death but no more than two years from date of execution if left behind by someone without heirs.

Probate Without A Will

Probate without a will is when the deceased does not have an estate plan or has left no word on how he would like his assets distributed. When this happens, a court can set up some guidelines for the distribution of property and follow state laws to decide who gets what. The courts usually appoint someone known as administrator for this process- they act as the executor and receive all legal claims against the estate from family members before distributing it in accordance with law.

Does An Estate Have to Go Through Probate?

Probate is not always required. If a person dies and all of their assets have clear beneficiaries and a will that directs how the estate should be administered, then there is no reason for the probate court to be involved. Many people are not aware of when probate might be required. This can save time and money by avoiding the process entirely.

If an individual dies without property, debts, or taxes then it is possible that no probate will ever need to take place! If any assets were left behind with joint ownership between two parties, joint tenancy agreement or beneficiary designation agreements in a governing power of attorney for financial matters related to incapacity among other legal documents – there may still be some work needed following their death but this won’t require the full-blown court proceeding necessary during formal estate proceedings which would include all these steps mentioned above as well as more complicated ones too difficult to list here due simply because they vary from case-to-case depending on what

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Who is involved in the probate?

There are many people involved in the probate process and many times there are multiple names for the same person. Because different states refer to the same person with different names, probate can be confusing when talking about it on a national level. It’s important to know the key roles and people involved in probate.

More Probate Terms You Might Not Know

There are lots of terms and phrases thrown around in probate. For that reason we’ve created a full probate glossary. You can find any of those terms below and click on them for their full definition.

What Is Probate Court?

Probate court is the process in which a court oversees the administration and distribution of an estate. There are multiple probate court hearings involved in probate court which each serve the purpose of moving the probate case forward.

If you are in the process of probate and need to receive funds immediately

Now that you have an understanding of probate, you can understand that it’s a lengthy process. There are options for receiving probate distributions early if that is something that you need. The process of dealing with real estate property in probate can also be very difficult. We cover that topic fully in our guides on inheriting real estate.

If you have more questions about probate, you can look in our full probate glossary, read our guides below or call us. We are happy to provide you with information on receiving a probate advance as well as recommended attorneys in our attorney referral program.

Find Out More About The Probate Laws In Your State

Legal Disclaimer: Please note that Inheritance Advanced is not a lender. Inheritance advance does not provide probate loans, inheritance loans, or estate loans, rather, an advance on a portion of proceeds signed over to Inheritance Advanced. Inheritance Advanced is also not a probate attorney and any information in this article should not be misconstrued as legal advice. We recommend that you seek the advice of an attorney, CPA, and tax attorney regarding any decisions pertaining to your probate.

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