What is probate?

by Flanders Law Firm LLC on March 2, 2012

As an estate planning lawyer, I have been asked “what is probate” on more than one occassion.

I’ve also tried to answer that question on this blog.  Probate is the process by which the instructions contained in a person’s Will are administered in the court system.  It is not something to be scared of.  It is a legal process by which society, through its laws, has made for collecting, valuing, and distributing the debts and assets of an estate in a judge and (hopefully) speedy fashion.

In many states, probate can be conducted in a Formal or Informal fashion.   Does this mean that suits are dresses need to be worn?  No, it means that the court can proceed with the administration of a person’s Will in a supervised or unsupervised fashion.  I’ve also discussed why and when an unsupervised or supervised estate administration is necessary on this blog.  If you want more information on those topics, follow the links.

My point is that the term “probate” is not something to be scared of.  Rather, it should be looked at as a necessary process by which the legal system administers the debts and assets of a deceased person.  The courts work closely with the personal representative and the lawyer.  Together, they collect information and documents which show the assets and debts of the deceased person.  A good lawyer will know what to do with those assets and debts.  Sometimes the assets and debts should be included in the probate estate and sometimes they should not.

There are many legal definitions and terms which are understood by estate planning lawyers which many lay-people will simply not know.  But, at the very least, it is important for people who are not lawyers to understand the basic definition of probate and how it may effect them.


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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Researching Estate Planning Law April 5, 2012 at 2:19 pm

This was immensely helpful! Thank you so much for the post and I love the blog!



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