For readers of this blog, they have likely seen the word, probate. But, unless one has done research on the subject, they likely do not know any details of the probate process.
The legal term, “probate” may sound like legal jargon, but it simply refers to the judicial process whereby a will is judicially reviewed for legal sufficiency. In other words, if it is legally valid and enforceable. It can also be used to refer to the administering of one’s will or a deceased person’s estate that died without a will.
Executor versus administrator
The probate judge does not do all of the administration though. Instead, the will names an executor that is in charge of collecting all of the deceased’s assets, paying off all the deceased’s debts and then, distributing the estate assets to the named beneficiaries (when approved). If a will does not exist or the will does not name an executor, the probate judge will name an administrator who will have the same job as an executor. Though, if a will does not exist, the administrator will follow state law, rather than the deceased person’s wishes. The estimated value of the estate must be reported to the court and IRS.
What does the probate judge do?
The judge reviews the will for legal sufficiency. The judge also assesses all of the estate assets, and the judge provides the final probate ruling on how those assets will be distributed to the beneficiaries. Of course, all disputes are also decided by the probate judge.
Is it required?
Perhaps. It really depends on the size of the estate and the state where the person died. For some, even for those cases where an entire estate is held in various trust accounts for distribution, the estate must be settled by probate court. For these cases, probate will take little time as the estate itself will largely be nonexistent. For everyone else though, especially for those without even a will, the probate process can be a long and costly process, requiring multiple lawyers and months, if not years, of litigation. It is always a good idea to contract with a Gulfport, Mississippi, probate attorney to make sure that estate is legally and appropriately wrapped up.