topic | opening probate

The probate process is often viewed as the most complicated part of estate administration. It provides oversight to the distribution of assets amongst stakeholders including creditors, family heirs, and state and federal tax agencies. The process promotes fairness and provides an opportunity for adequate representation. Keep in mind:

  • Monetary and emotional stakes may be high.
  • The complexity of probate increases with size and varies by location of the estate.
  • The added value of professionals such as an estate attorney increases with the complexity of the estate and the level of contention amongst stakeholders.

Probate is influenced by individual state laws, the size of the estate, and the involvement of third parties such as the court system, judges, or estate attorneys. It usually begins after a short waiting period (30 days following death) and must begin within three years. It is initiated in the county and state of legal domicile of the deceased but will also be filed in other states where large amounts of property or real estate are owned. An estate will proceed through one of three processes:

While Affidavit and Summary Procedures are desirable because they greatly simplify and shorten the probate process, the requirements to qualify for these procedures are stringent.

Throughout this Topic you will be asked to answer a number of questions. Your answers influence your path through the probate process. Since circumstances surrounding the administration of an estate vary, it may not be necessary to complete each of these steps, and some of them may be completed more than once.

Probate may be the most challenging part of estate administration, but take comfort in knowing that organization is a key ingredient for success. You are well on your way!