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What is Probate?

Updated: Oct 13, 2020

After you die, the assets in your probate estate (see last week's post) will be inaccessible someone initiates “probate.” To put it simply, probate is the court-supervised administration of your probate estate.


But what does that mean?


In order to begin probate, a person has to ask the local court to open the probate estate (typically through a petition) and designate him/her as the personal representative (also known as the executor or administrator) of the probate estate. If the court accepts the petition, an order will be signed appointing that person as the personal representative of the probate estate. The court will then issue Letters of Administration or Letters Testamentary to the appointed personal representative so the custodian of the probate assets (i.e., bank or financial institution) has proof that the designated personal representative has the authority to access the probate assets.


After appointment, the personal representative must follow specific procedures to administer the probate estate including paying expenses and taxes. These procedures often require reporting back to the Court periodically with the status of the administration. After all required procedures have been followed, the remaining assets in the probate estate will be distributed as required by the deceased person’s Last Will and Testament (“Will”) or, if there is no Will, as required by law.


Next week I will discuss testate (with a Will) and intestate (without a Will) distributions.

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