Saturday, March 29, 2008

What is “Probate?”

“Probate” is the set of legal procedures by which a deceased person’s property passes to others following his or her death. It applies to persons who died with a will (“testate”) or without a will (“intestate”).

By way of a partial summary, Probate allows the court to identify whether someone needs to be appointed to manage the deceased’s affairs – not every estate requires such “administration.” For example, if the deceased had no debts (other than a real estate mortgage, car note, or similar secured debts), his estate likely does not require administration, and Probate would only require entry of orders that identify his heirs and distribute his property.

Although many people will advise you to takes steps during your lifetime to “avoid probate,” Probate is an essential and very important process. It clears title to real estate and other property. It settles legitimate debts and wipes out others. It establishes a new income tax basis for the deceased’s property. By careful estate planning during your lifetime, and consultation with an attorney following your loved one’s death, the process of probate administration can be carefully managed to provide for closure of almost every estate as quickly and economically as possible.