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What Is Probate, and How Does It Work?

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Probate is the court-supervised process of validating the will of a deceased person, or decedent. It involves identifying the person’s final assets, paying their last debts and distributing their estate’s property to the proper heirs. State probate laws vary, but the process is very similar across the country, with lawyers doing most of the heavy lifting. It’s helpful, though, to know what’s involved, whether you’re writing your will or you’re an executor or beneficiary. For more hands-on guidance with estate planning, consult with a financial advisor in your area.

What Is Probate, and How Does It Work?

In simple terms, probate is the method by which a decedent’s will is processed. This typically involves lawyers and a court proceeding where the stipulations in the will are read aloud and the appropriate inheritances are handed out. The probate process can take some time, depending on the size of the estate. Most wills name an executor, who takes charge of overseeing the probate process. This person typically has 30 days from the date of the will owner’s death to file the document with the local probate court. If the decedent died without a will or didn’t clearly identify an executor in one, the probate court will appoint an administrator to oversee the probate process. This role often falls on the next of kin. However, a named executor or appointed administrator can always decline the role. In these cases, the court turns to someone else. This person overseeing the probate must prove to the court that the will is valid.

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