What is Probate?

Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person.

This process is generally overseen and accomplished by the executor if there is a Will, or by a court-appointed representative if there is not. Though state laws vary, probate typically involves:

  1. Identifying and inventorying the deceased person's property.
  2. Accounting and appraisal of the property.
  3. Payment of taxes and creditors.
    Under state law, the surviving spouse and/or children are usually allotted a specific amount of the deceased’s assets. This allotment is typically paid prior to paying taxes, creditors and other claims against the estate.
  4. Formal distribution of the remaining property as the will directs, or by the state laws of intestate succession, if there is no will.

In most states, smaller estates may fall within a probate exemption which allows a certain amount of property to pass free of probate, or through a simplified procedure.

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