Probate Explained

The probate process seems to many persons outside the legal world to be a long, drawn-out and expensive process for settling a deceased person's affairs. This is often not the case as your probate matter may be fairly straight-forward and not require an attorney. However, it is always advisable to have a probate attorney specialist review your case to help you avoid costly and time-consuming delays. While this page won't begin to explain any complex issues that may occur in the settling of some estates, it should give the reader an overview of the probate process.

What is Probate?

The term probate means to "prove the will" through a proceeding usually in court. However, a will does not always exist (or is not available) and so in laws are established in each state to deal with the orderly distribution of assets to those who are entitled to inherit them, generally after being reviewed or monitored by a judge or other court-appointed person.

What is Involved in Settling an Estate?

This involves a process which determines

  1. What personal property and real estate (if any) is owned by the deceased person
  2. Pays any taxes or debts that the deceased person may owe (including costs of doing probate), and
  3. Distribute all real and personal property which remains to the rightful beneficiaries

This property is said to be owned by the "estate" of the deceased person and must remain so until the probate process is complete and the judge or other court-appointed person says it may be distributed.

How Long Does It Take to Settle an Estate?

The entire probate process will differ from state too state and the size and complexity of the "estate." In California, small estates may even avoid a formal probate when the total assets add up to less than $100,000 however the debts must still be paid. Again, in California, the minimum time an estate will likely be open is probably from six months to a year; possible more if the estate requires real property such as a home to be sold and the buyer to close escrow.

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