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What does “Probate” mean?

The probate process is when a court declares a will to be valid, and authorizes the named executor to administer the estate. It’s an important step in the estate administration process - but many people may not realize they need to perform this step.

The average person is most likely not familiar with estate laws, as he or she may not have to deal with the loss of life on a daily basis. However, an experienced estate lawyer assists different people with this step regularly, and can provide you with assistance on what happens next after a loved one passes away.

When a loved one dies, the surviving family and friends may think all that needs to be done is to find the will, and then start following the instructions within. However, there’s a slightly more complex process to start administering an estate. Many provisions of a will may require access to assets that only the deceased had control over, such as bank accounts and ownership of physical property.

In order to administer these assets, access has to be given to a trusted individual, known as the executor. For an executor to be given this access, the will needs to be brought before the courts and checked to make sure that it is a legally valid will. This means that the deceased was of sound mind when the will was created, and that the legal requirements - such as the signature of two witnesses – is also provided as well.

Having a court declare a will as valid is known as the probate process. There is a cost involved with the probate process. However, not all situations require that the process need be carried out. As outlined on the Dial-a-law website, instances where an estate is valued at under $25 do not require the probate process. Also, in situations where the ownership of a property is held in joint tenancy – where the right of survivorship would apply – the probate process is also not necessary.

If you have questions about the probate process and what you need to do to administer a will, it’s best to consult with an experienced estates lawyer. He or she will be able to assist you with what needs to be done in your particular situation.

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