When a loved one dies, there is a common misconception that the will automatically kicks in so the deceased’s property can go to those he or she named. However, before this happens, most wills must first go through probate court. 

The process may seem complicated, but fortunately, we are here to help shed some light on it. We aim to arm people with a basic understanding of what happens during probate, making things easier when it is time to go through it. 

Paying off debt 

One reason probate exists is to ensure that creditors get money the deceased owed. The personal representative of the estate is responsible for handling the necessary paperwork and steps required in court. This includes publishing a notice to creditors, alerting them that the process begins. This notice gives them a chance to make claims against the estate. The personal representative must then pay claims and furnish proof to the court of doing so. 

Distributing property  

The heirs listed in the will receive notification that probate is in process. Any of them may request an accounting of the deceased’s estate, including proof of creditor payments and balances. Once the court deems the financial obligations fulfilled, the personal representative may start distributing the property to named heirs. At this point, there is a chance that someone who is not in the will may enter and attempt to challenge it. However, as long as the deceased was mentally competent and the judge deems the will valid, such challenges may not make it far. 

Probate ends when there is nothing left to distribute. The judge will order probate to close once all the property in the will is gone. For all other matters regarding wills, including preparation and representation during probate, follow this link.