What is Probate?
It is the legal process of presenting your Will to the Court, after your death to authenticate it, and appoint your Executor. Your Executor must be appointed by the Court in order to collect and distribute your assets as stated in your Will. However, because it is a legal process, there are many steps that must be followed before your Executor can be appointed.
- The attorneys must obtain signatures from your heirs signifying they acknowledge the Will is yours. Your heirs are your spouse and children and all must agree not to contest your Will before your Executor can be appointed. If you don’t have a spouse or child, probate becomes even more complicated. If a child dies before you, then, all of your deceased child’s children will have to agree not to contest your Will, but if they are under 18, the Court will need to appoint a separate attorney to represent them. The same is true if any of your heirs are legally incapacitated, such as a mentally challenged child or spouse with Alzheimer’s.
- Upon receipt of all of the appropriate information (if no heirs contest it), the Court will appoint the Executor.
- After your Executor is appointed, estate administration begins. The Executor must take inventory of all assets and file a report with the Court. The probate process often is a slow process and may take a year or more. If you die without a will, the process is similar, but the State decides who gets your assets, not you.
Unfortunately, probate is unpredictable. That’s why many people chose to avoid it, but if all of your heirs agree and your assets are centralized, it can go smoothly.