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What Is Probate and How Can You Avoid It?

Probate court can handle the distribution of an estate’s assets, but there are ways you can avoid it.

Probate is an important legal mechanism that dictates where, when and how a person’s assets are distributed after his or her death.

It’s not always a clean and efficient process, but probate is a legal way to properly dispose of a deceased individual’s property after death, with a requisite stamp of approval from a probate court.

How does probate court work and what does it mean to you? Like most legal and estate processes, there are some broader brushstrokes and finer points of detail to consider.
Let’s take a look at the probate process and make sense of the issue, in real-life terms.

What Is Probate?

  • Probate is an estate-planning process that operates within the legal system, specifically within a probate court with a probate judge presiding over the proceedings.
  • Typically, surviving families and other interested parties trigger a probate process, to cover a host of issues relating to the deceased individual’s estate settlement, including:
  • The handling of a valid will from the deceased.
    Properly citing and categorizing the deceased individual’s estate and property.
  • Appraising the deceased individual’s estate and property.
  • Covering any of the deceased individual’s existing debts, such as a mortgage, taxes, and other big-ticket items
  • Steering the deceased’s property to the individuals or organizations cited in the (or, if there’s no will, the probate court will direct the distribution of estate assets to the legal heirs on behalf of the deceased.
  • During this process, interested parties usually hire a lawyer to represent their interest. In many cases, the estate will pay for the legal fees out of a fund set aside to handle probate costs.
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