A probate is a court action where a person files documents with the court and asks a judge to authorize the person to gather the assets of the estate, pay bills, and distribute the remaining assets of the estate to its beneficiaries (persons or entities entitled to receive the remaining assets of the estate, after debts and costs are paid).
The person who filed the probate can be the person named in the will as the Personal Representative/Executor of the estate. Upon review, the court will grant and sign Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration, if there is no will. This document demonstrates that the petitioner has the authority and the right to receive estate assets for the purposes of administering the estate.
A probate attorney drafts and files the opening probate papers, appears in court to obtain the Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration, and assists with the notice and other requirements of probate. Once everything is complete, closing probate documents are filed with the court and the case, along with challenges to the way the estate was handled, are formally closed.
For small estates (no debt and assets less than $100,000) and estates that only include real estate, there are alternatives to probate. In those instances, a court action does not need to be filed and a Small Estates Affidavit or a Lack of Probate Affidavit may be appropriate. Also, if all of the estate’s assets are held in a valid Trust, it may not be necessary to file a probate and the estate can be handled privately by the trustee.
Kristina Mattson Law can assist you with the probate process and can help you determine the best path forward in administering a loved one’s estate.