The Purpose of Probate

Probate is not something that most people fully understand, but its purpose is simple enough: it is to ensure that the transfer of asset ownership is conducted in a legal manner. This includes real property, stocks, cash, and bank accounts among others that are in the name of the decedent. It is supervised by the court, and scrutinizes a will for illegal or irregular conditions or circumstances that may serve to invalidate the testamentary document.

In the absence of a will, probate court will nominate persons who may petition to be administrator of the estate in order of priority, who may then start the probate process unless the petition is challenged. The petition for probate can be challenged by any interested parties; if there are no disputes files, the petitioner is then named administrator of the estate. The court will then entertain claims to the estate and make a distribution based on applicable intestate succession laws.

A prolonged probate process is not always necessary upon an individual’s death. Estates with assets of $150,000 or less can avail of summary probate, sort of like a “quickie” probate that take considerably less time to execute. The cost of probate is usually dependent on the fair market value of the estate assets.

However, probate law is tricky at best, and when there are indications of fiduciary wrongdoing (i.e. executor mismanaged or embezzled assets) or there are disputes over the conditions of a will, it can get even trickier. It is fatally easy to be get less than the law provides if more aggressive claimants have retained experienced probate lawyers to represent them. It is important that when an estate in Los Angeles, for example, enters probate, an eligible heir should consult with an experienced Houston lawyer as well.

If you are involved in the probate process, it is not advisable to wait until trouble starts to get legal advice. Consult with a probate lawyer in your area as soon as possible.

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