The creation of a last will and testament makes the probate process more straightforward and often quicker. As a legal process, probate refers to the process of distribution of an individual’s property after they are deceased. While this process encompasses the delivery of assets to beneficiaries and heirs, it also includes the seizing of assets to settle any outstanding debts and taxes. Therefore, the probate process can be complicated and lengthy depending on the steps taken before the death of the estate holder.
The 6 Basic Steps
The process can be simplified if an individual takes the necessary steps in life to set up their estate. While not everyone will have millions of dollars to worry about, even small estates can be tied up in court for years if they are not correctly established before a person’s death. Therefore, it is beneficial to live relatives, if an estate holder has created at least some aspects of an estate plan so that the following six steps of the process can be handled quickly.
- Appointment of an administrator
- Court validates the last will and testament
- Property is identified and inventoried
- Payment of outstanding taxes and debts
- Distribution of assets according to decedent’s will
If there is no last will and testament, then it is up to the probate court to determine and designate how the property and estate will be distributed. Court-supervised trials can last years, depending on the size of the estate. Also, even if a will exists, it may be challenged by legal heirs, which can extend the process. However, in a situation where no will exist, the final judgment is up to the court, and they will determine the proper beneficiaries and how the decedent’s assets will be distributed.
Length of Process
The length of the probate process depends on the size of the estate and the number of challenges to the will. The American Bar Association says that the typical process, barring any objections, lasts anywhere from six to nine months on average. However, depending on disputes and other legal or financial issues, the process can take years, which is why many people choose to tie their estate to a living trust and avoid probate altogether.
While probate is the process of distributing a decedent’s estate, it can be avoided with proper preparations. If you are interested in setting up a living trust to ensure that your family and beneficiaries don’t get tied up in court for years after your death, then call a local probate attorney to discuss your options.