Understanding The Probate Process

During a time of grieving, dealing with a complex legal process can seem like too much to bear. For those who recently lost a cherished loved one, dealing with probate and other such matters are probably the last thing they want to handle. Understanding the probate process, including how to avoid it if desired, can help trust creators and their relatives be more informed about what’s to come.

Probate Summarized

Probate is the process of administering someone’s estate once they have passed on. If a last will and testament was written, probate will confirm that the will is legally valid, then instructions the trust creator described will be carried out by the chosen or appointed executor. However, if estate documents were not left behind, then the decedent’s estate may be handled by the court system based on state intestacy laws.

Key Terms To Know

A legal proceeding can come along with numerous new terminology, which can be overwhelming for family members and trust creators. A few helpful key terms to know include the following:

  • Administrator: court-chosen executor, if a person passed without a will.
  • Decedent: a deceased person whose assets and estate go through probate.
  • Executor: otherwise referred to as a personal representative, this person is responsible for carrying out will instructions or court-enforced duties. 
  • Intestacy: laws on the state level which determine how estates are distributed.
  • Intestate: a case where a person died without having written a will. 
  • Letters Testamentary: a document written by the probate court that authorizes the executor to begin carrying out the will.