What is Probate?

Probate is defined as the orderly administration of your affairs supervised by the court. It is a function of state law and varies from state to state. If you own real property in more than one state, your estate will probably be subject to probate in numerous jurisdictions, which will each impose its own fees.

Probate comes from the Latin word “to prove.” A Will must be presented to the probate court and proven to be a valid document. In addition to “proving the will,” the probate process also includes:

  • Officially confirming the executor or personal representative named in the will or appointing a representative, if necessary.
  • Notifying the court of a deceased person’s death and informing all involved parties (all potential heirs whether named in the Will or not) that probate has started.
  • Taking an inventory of all property and appraising its value.
  • Paying the deceased person’s debts and taxes.
  • Preparing a final accounting to the court.
  • Distributing the remainder of the deceased’s property to the heirs.
  • Closing the estate.

The Disadvantages of Probate

Time Consuming: The probate process can take a few months or as long as several years to complete. The average probate takes about 12 months. In complex situations, probate lasting 18 months to two years is not unusual.

Costly: Attorney’s fees to probate an estate can run into thousands of dollars. In addition, the executor, inheritance tax referee, and other officers of the court must be compensated. All related probate fees must be paid before any of the decedent’s assets are distributed to the family.

Loss of Control: The probate court controls the entire process. Someone “on the outside” will tell your beneficiaries who gets what and when.

Lack of Privacy: All probate transactions are a matter of public record. Anyone can find out the size, contents, and beneficiaries of your estate. This can be frustrating for your family, create disputes, and expose your family to unscrupulous solicitors.