Probate: Why the Need to Go through It?

Deciding who you would want to inherit your assets and properties can be done through the drafting of a will. A will can also contain the name of the person who you would want to act as executor (or executrix, if female), that is, the person charged to administrate your estate or carry out the wishes and instructions of the deceased testator (the person who made the will). If your will does not appoint your preferred executor, then one will be appointed by the court instead. An executor is usually a family member, lawyer, or an accountant who is, at least, 18 years old.

Besides administrating your assets and properties, and distributing these to your heirs, an executor will also need to do the following:

  • Make sure that all assets and properties your will mentions are accounted for
  • Pay all (of the deceased testator’s) debts, creditors and taxes
  • Distribute the remaining assets to the inheritors named in the will

Before an executor can do all such tasks, though, it will have to be proven first that he has been appointed for such duty in the will. This process of proving is included in a legal process called probate.

A probate is a court proceeding wherein the validity of a will is established; after validating its contents, its terms are thereafter administered. The whole process that leads to probate starts with the filing of the will at the appropriate court. Request is also made that the court approves the will and officially or formally appoints the executor (formally appointed executors are issued by the court a letters probate – a document proving his/her authority to administrate the state).

A probate process basically involves two steps: the first is the need to pay all debts owed by the testator; the second is the transferring or distribution of all assets and properties to beneficiaries. All heirs named in the will need to be informed about the court scheduled probate; prior to this is the need to publish the death of the estate owner in the state’s local paper. This death notice is intended to allow people of businesses (creditors) who/which may have an interest in the owner’s estates; creditors are given a specific period within which they will have to file a claim against the dead owner’s estate. If there is no real estate to be inherited or if the estate is community property or jointly owned, then the will need not be validated or probated.

Peck Ritchey, LLC, a firm based in Chicago, says on its website that working closely with the people managing the deceased owner’s estate to ensure handling of tax-related matters is most advantageous to the beneficiaries. This is because the least amount of taxes to be paid means a higher monetary value the heirs can enjoy. The laws relating to estates, wills and probates, though can sometimes be complicated even to a lawyer executor, making the assistance of experts on the matter quite a necessity.