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What is probate?
Probate is the court-supervised distribution of assets by an individual. When a person owns property in their own name at the time of their death, it is likely that a probate will be required. Probates can be simple or complex depending on the type of property owned or the value of property. In cases where the only asset subject to probate is a house, just a simple probate is required.
What to expect:
An interested person starts a probate by proceeding by filing a petition with the court. The petition will contain information about the decedent, heirship and a summary of assets. Notice of the probate is given to all heirs and other persons interested in the decedent’s estate.
The first step in the process is for the court to set a hearing to determine whether there is a will, whether the will is valid and to appoint a personal representative to oversee the probate.
If no one objects to the probate at the first hearing, the court will issue a document called “letters” which authorizes the personal representative to act on behalf of the estate. A personal representative will then have the authority to sell a house or other assets, pay claims, and distribute estate property to beneficiaries. The court also requires that notice be given to creditors, so they can file claims against the estate for payment. A creditor typically has four months to file a claim against the estate.
In some cases, personal representatives must have court permission to sell property of the estate, and they must file a final account for court approval which lists all of the income and expenses relating to the estate. However, this is not necessary in most probates.