What is a Probate?
What is probate or what is a probate? Probate is a court process you go through when a loved one passes away and they have assets that need to be transferred to another. The process starts when someone files paperwork with the probate court after the death of the loved one. All of the loved one’s possessions are placed in their “estate.” The court process determines if the will (if one is available) is valid. If there are certain provisions that are invalid the court will strike out the terms that are invalid. The court process determines what assets are included in the estate and then appoints someone to administer it. Your loved one may have already appointed an executor in his or her will. If no one has been appointed, the court will appoint one. The appointed executor helps pay off the creditors from the estate, and then distributes the remaining assets to the beneficiaries as indicated in the will if the will is deemed valid. If there is no will then the court makes a determination of who will receive the assets of the estate based on state law.
When people ask what is a probate they want to know what is probate the process. After someone passes away, a Petition for Probate is filed with the court in the county of the person who passed. Once the Petition is filed the clerk of the court will set up a hearing date. A Petition to Administer Estate must be published in an approved publication prior to the hearing so there is notice of the petition to the public at large. As part of what is probate or what is a probate, anyone that may have an interest in the estate should be notified, including family members, even if they are not mentioned in the will. After all the paperwork is reviewed there is a hearing on the Petition for Probate. After this hearing the judge will make a determination that all the required notices are given and he appoints or names the executor or administrator of the will and allows the executor or administrator to proceed with the process. An executor is the person that is named in the will to carry out the testator’s (person who executed the will) wishes. An administrator is appointed by the court if there is no will or no one was named in the will. If anyone challenges the will, such as family members who were left out of the will, or they object to the person named as the executor, a separate hearing will be scheduled to make a determination if the challenge is valid. This is the heart of what is a probate or what is probate. The executor/administrator will then do an inventory of all the assets and file more paperwork with the court. They also need to provide formal notice to the creditors and pay the debts owed (they need to make sure the debts are valid and not pay anyone that files a claim). A final estate tax return also needs to be filed and the estate taxes need to be paid. After all the taxes and creditors are paid the remaining assets will be distributed to the beneficiaries or heirs.
Not all estates have to go through this process. If your loved one has less than $150,000 in assets (valued on the date of death) there is a simplified process that you can go through that does not have to involve probate courts to transfer the assets to the beneficiaries. This will save you time and money. Hopefully this answered your questions about “what is a probate or what is probate?”