A Complete Guide to Probate

A death, especially when it’s sudden, is always a traumatic and unpleasant event for the family. Apart from mourning and coping with all difficult emotions, relatives of the deceased need to take care of all the formal and legal issues connected with will and heritage. 

These can be a little complicated, especially if the legal aspects haven’t been sorted in advance, and usually, it requires some effort to clarify them. One of these complicated matters is connected with probate. 

What is probate and what do you need to know about it? Below we present a complete guide to probate.

What is probate?

In legal terms, probate is the process of confirming and approving the will and testament of the deceased person. It is a first step to distributing the property and heritage. The probate process is also meant to assess the reliability of the will and to confirm it. 

The whole process needs to be administered by the court so that it is objective and trustworthy. The word ‘probate’ comes from Latin, where it meant ‘to test, prove, examine’, so the etymology also suggests the aim of probate. To read more about the definition of probate as such, take a look at this article.

Terminology

To fully understand and be able to begin the probate process, it’s necessary to get familiar with some legal terminology that’s related to it. Generally, there are two options for administering the heritage that is stated in probate: it’s administered either by an executor or an administrator. 

What’s the difference? If the deceased had stated his will before he died, and – at the same time – indicated the executor of his testament, then that person is confirmed to be the executor during the probate process. 

If this was not the case and there was no will, it’s the role of the court to indicate the administrator of the heritage. It is usually a family member, but in some countries, it is possible to name a ‘professional administrator’ – if no one in the family wants or is able to do it.

The probate process

The whole probate process is administered by the court and in order to start it, you usually need to take care of a few aspects beforehand. If you are not sure what to do, visit probate advance and see what steps you need to take.  

First, after submitting the probate application (all the necessary documents should be available online or via the local court) remember about noticing all the people involved – of course, they will be officially noticed by the court, but still, it’s good to let people know in advance. 

If there are executors who are already named in the will, they need to be present in the court and they should be aware of all the legal steps that need to be taken in order to distribute and manage the heritage. It is also important to remember and respect the laws of all the beneficiaries.  

Within the process, there will be various documents needed. In order to prepare, the executor or other family members of the deceased need to obtain, among others: the death certificate, life insurance certificate, certificates from the banks or insurance companies informing about any debts and insurance payments.

Probate tips – what to keep in mind

In order to go through the probate process smoothly and quickly, it’s good to remember some tips. After submitting the application, it is usually necessary to wait for about four to eight weeks before you obtain probate. It’s also advisable to estimate the costs – usually, a court fee is obligatory, no matter if you decide to take a lawyer’s consultation or not. 

The overall cost will, obviously, get higher if the specialists’ help is required. However, most people decide to go through probate process on their own. In which cases is involving a specialist advisable? For instance, if the property is bankrupt or there are doubts about it, if there are doubts about the validity of the will (for example due to the mental state of the deceased) or if the estate value is above the inheritance tax threshold. 

You can read more about these cases here. It is also worth remembering that if you are an unmarried partner of the deceased, you won’t get the money automatically – only spouses may do it.

 Final words 

The whole process of obtaining probate and dealing with the will and testament issues may seem complicated at first glance, but they don’t need to be so challenging. If you follow some guidelines of the court and take care of all the necessary documentation in cooperation with others who are involved, the process should go smoothly and relatively quickly. Remember that you can always get some lawyers’ advice in this matter. 

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