If you are dealing with the loss of a loved one, then you might have heard the term probate. However, you might not be sure what it is or why it matters. To help you get a better idea of how wills work, here is an overview of the probate process:
What is probate?
Before a will can be executed, it will need to be granted probate, which is given through a specific legal process which involves a probate court. Every will is assigned an individual known as an executor, either by the will or by a judge if the will has no such clause. This executor will present the will to the court in order to prove that the will is valid and to the list the estate of the deceased.
In essence, probate is meant to serve two purposes:
- First of all, the probate process will ensure that the will is valid. If a will was written under duress, was modified against the wishes of the deceased, or was otherwise tampered with, then the court will not grant probate. In such a case, the executor will need to appeal the decision if they want the will to be executed. Appeals do take time and money, so you should take every measure to ensure that probate will be granted the second time around.
- Secondly, probate aims to deduct debts from the estate before it is distributed according to the will. This includes both private debts and owed taxes. The estate will need to be evaluated and the monetary value will be weighed against such debts. If need be, assets will be liquidated and property will be sold in order to pay off debts. Whatever is left over can be distributed as the will indicates.
Thankfully, this doesn't mean that the estate of the deceased will be totally tied up until probate is granted. In many cases, you can appeal the court for a specific release of funds from the estate, perhaps to pay for funeral costs or to compensate for lost income. For instance, if an individual with many dependents dies, then the court will likely release some of the estate to care for those dependents. Ultimately, a lot of responsibility will rest on the shoulders of the executor, who will oversee the estate during the probate process. Therefore, you want to make sure that the executor is both neutral and experienced in the world of wills. To learn more about probate, speak with a probate lawyer, like those at Leon J Teichner & Associates, P.C.