Probate is the process by which a person’s estate is evaluated and distributed after his or her passing. Beneficiaries are determined, an executor is placed in charge of the estate, and distribution begins. The estate can even be legally transferred to the named beneficiaries. There are a few ways that a probate case can be initiated. For example, if a person passes away and lists his or her wishes in a will distributing property, the probate court will oversee and resolve any disputes that arise from that document.
The process of moving an estate through probate can be lengthy and arduous. If a will is uncontested, the process to disburse the estate is usually less difficult, but if beneficiaries or others tied to the will contest its provisions, probate can last even longer.
Executors and estate administrations are integral during the probate process and can be specifically named in a will. Sometimes, in the absence of a will, a probate court can appoint a person to represent the estate through the process. If probate is not necessary, then the probate court does not have to appoint a person to oversee the estate.
Requesting that the probate court review and administer a last will and testament is the purpose of finding a petition for probate. In most cases, this petition will include specific information like the name of the proposed executor, the deceased person’s name and date of death, as well as a place to list the known beneficiaries and known creditors.
Asking the probate court for letters of administration is a request that a person be appointed to oversee an estate when real estate or property will move through a state’s laws of intestacy. When a person passes without a valid will, then statutes outline how to successfully settle the estate.
After the death of a spouse, a spousal property petition can be used to transfer assets from the deceased spouse to the surviving spouse or domestic partner. It is a simplified probate matter and can take less to complete the transfer than entering into the full probate process.
Whether a property is included in a trust or not is a critical question that a probate court can solve. In California, a Heggstad Petition is a court process to ask the probate court to declare a particular piece of property a trust asset, even if the title to that property was not formally transferred to the trust.
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