Probate is the legal process of
administering a person’s estate after their death. If you have a last will and
testament, probate will involve proving that your will is legally
valid, executing your instructions and paying applicable taxes.
Having a clearly written will is one way to make the probate
process easier on your loved ones. After all, your will doesn’t only specify
who should inherit what. It also designates who you’d like to take care of your
kids if both parents were to pass away, plus the executor who should fulfill
the instructions in your will.
If you die without a will, the probate court will rely on your
state’s intestate law to figure out how to distribute the person’s stuff. (You
know how Prince’s heirs had trouble inheriting his assets because
he didn’t have a will? Yeah, like that.)
Terms to Know
Legal proceedings often involve terminology that can be
overwhelming when you’re already dealing with a lot. A few useful probate terms
·Decedent: The deceased person whose estate is going through
·Executor or personal representative: The person in charge of
carrying out the instructions in the will.
·Administrator: A court-appointed executor, if someone dies
without leaving a will.
·Intestate: A case where someone dies without a will.
·Intestacy: State laws determining how to distribute such
·Letters testamentary: A document from a probate court
authorizing the executor to start carrying out the will.
·Notice of probate and notice to creditors: Notices that the
executor has to submit, in writing, to the heirs (“interested parties”) and
·Small estate affidavit, summary probate and/or summary
administration: Documents or processes that can allow you to skip or shorten
certain aspects of probate (i.e. distribute property without a lengthy court
process). Estates below a certain value (depending on your state) are eligible