Probate and Trusts
Probate is the legal process that takes place after someone dies. It involves the judicial determination of whether a Will is valid and the process of settling/administering an estate under the supervision of the probate court.
Administering an estate is the process by which assets are gathered, applied to pay debts, taxes and expenses of administration, and distributed to those designated as Beneficiaries in the Will. The Executor or Personal Representative named in the Will is in charge of the process.
If no formal probate process is required, the court does not appoint an estate administrator. Rather, a close relative or friend serves as an informal estate representative, and often more than one person shares the responsibility of paying debts, filing a final income tax return and distributing property to the decedent’s Beneficiaries/Heirs.
Probate law generally provides for partial distribution during the administration process. Many attorneys encourage probate avoidance techniques due to the perception of long and costly probate process. However, most states allow a certain amount of property to pass free of probate, and many states now offer simplified or streamlined probate processes for qualifying estates.