Probate is the judicial process by which a decedent’s estate is valued, beneficiaries are determined, an executor in charge of estate distribution is declared, and the estate is legally transferred to the determined beneficiaries.
An estate can be brought to the Probate Court in 4 ways.
- The decedent has a will distributing property to beneficiaries without the use of a valid and properly funded trust.
- The decedent passed intestate (without a will).
- A Trust is being challenged as to validity, capacity, fraud, or undue influence.
- A Trust is unfunded and property remains outside of the Trust’s intended protection from the probate process.
The Probate Process can be long and arduous, typically taking anywhere from 10 months to 18 months for an uncontested Probate Proceeding.
The Probate Court certifies the executor designated in the decedent’s estate plan, or appoints another third-party administrator under certain circumstances. A valuation is conducted of the decedent’s entire estate. The beneficiaries are both determined and contacted. Creditors are notified of their last opportunity to seek unpaid bills. The property is distributed to the beneficiaries. Lastly, the Executor is discharged from his/her duties.