The Basics of Probate


What is Probate?

Probate is a legal proceeding in which a state court oversees the process of identifying a deceased person’s heirs, property, and valid debts. The goal is to see that a decedent’s valid debts are paid and to distribute the remaining estate assets to the proper heirs. The process of actually identifying a decedent’s heirs, property, and valid debts is done by the executor or administrator (also known as the personal representative) of the estate. If the decedent left a will, the court normally appoints the person named as executor in the will as the executor. If there is no will, the court will usually appoint a relative or friend of the decedent to act as administrator. The personal representative, usually working in conjunction with a probate attorney, will have the task of sorting out the estate

Which Assets are Subject to Probate?

Probate is a legal proceeding in which a state court oversees the process of identifying a deceased person’s heirs, property, and valid debts. The goal is to see that a decedent’s valid debts are paid and to distribute the remaining estate assets to the proper heirs. The process of actually identifying a decedent’s heirs, property, and valid debts is done by the executor or administrator (also known as the personal representative) of the estate. If the decedent left a will, the court normally appoints the person named as executor in the will as the executor. If there is no will, the court will usually appoint a relative or friend of the decedent to act as administrator. The personal representative, usually working in conjunction with a probate attorney, will have the task of sorting out the estate

How Long Does Probate Take?

Time wise, the easiest probates take about a year to complete. However, there are some estates that, for whatever reason, end up taking many years to probate.

The Probate Timeline at a Glance:

  • Petition to open the probate is filed
  • Notice of the first hearing is published in the newspaper and sent to all heirs and named beneficiaries
  • First hearing is held
  • Letters of Administration are issued
  • Notice sent to all known creditors
  • Assets marshaled
  • Property sold (if necessary)
  • Taxes paid
  • Debts paid
  • Accounting of Estate and Petition for Final Distribution is filed
  • Second hearing is held
  • Order signed by judge for distribution
  • Final distribution to heirs/beneficiaries occurs