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The Probate Process

Have you ever wondered about the probate process? What is probate, anyway? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, probate is defined as, “the action or process of proving before a competent judicial authority that a document offered for official recognition and registration as the last will and testament of a deceased person is genuine.” The broad definition is “the process of administering an estate.”

We’ve narrowed down general probate into four general steps to help explain this process. We researched information on probate on Please note this information is not a substitute for licensed legal advice.

  1. File a Petition and Give Notice to Heirs and Beneficiaries. Once the will is filed with the courts, the court will admit the will to probate and appoint the executor or in cases where there is no will, appoint an administrator of the estate. In general, notice of the court hearing regarding the petition must be provided to all of the decedent’s heirs and beneficiaries. In the event that an heir or beneficiary objects to the petition, they have the opportunity to do so in court. Additionally, notice of the hearing is published in a local newspaper as an attempt to notify other, like unknown creditors, for example, of the beginning of the proceeding.

  2. Following the Court Appointment, the Personal Representative Must Give Notice to all Known Creditors of the Estate and Take an Inventory of the Estate Property. After the personal representative gives written notice to all creditors of the estate (based on requirements by state), the creditors have a certain amount of time (varies by state) to make a claim on assets of the estate. Additionally, an inventory of all of the decedent’s probate property, including real property, stocks, bonds, business interests, among other assets, is taken. Depending on the state, a court appointed appraiser values the assets and if necessary, an independent appraiser is hired by the estate to appraise non-cash assets.

  3. All Estate and Funeral Expenses, Debts and Taxes Must be Paid from the Estate. The personal representative then must determine which creditor’s claims are legitimate and pay/negotiate those and other final bills from the estate. In some instances, the personal representative is permitted or may be required to sell estate assets to satisfy the decedent’s obligations/outstanding debts.

  4. Legal Title in Property is Transferred According to the Will (or Under the Laws of Intestacy if the Decedent Did Not Have a Will). Following the waiting period to allow creditors to file claims against the estate, and after all approved claims and bills are paid, generally, the personal representative petitions the court for the authority to transfer the remaining assets to beneficiaries as directed in the decedent’s last will and testament. If there is no will, assets will be distributed according to the state’s intestate succession laws.


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