What Does “Probate” Mean?

Attorneys often presume words that are common in their profession are widely known by everyone else. Oftentimes it is important to define estate-planning terms from the outset so that clients and professionals are on the same page.The simplest definition of probate is the official proving of a will. The process of “officially proving” the will involves the following steps:

1. Presenting the original will to the court in the county where the decedent resided at the time of death.

2. The individual who is nominated by the will to be the Personal Representative (known in other states as “executor”) must file some initial paperwork advising the court of her willingness to serve as Personal Representative.

3. A judge will review the will and the initial paperwork and, so long as it is not contested, issue official “Letters Testamentary”. This document contains the official court seal and allows the Personal Representative to collect assets, pay debts, and disperse the remainder of the estate to the beneficiaries named under the will.

4. When these tasks have been accomplished and a certain amount of time has passed, the estate may be closed. There are, of course, other activities and paperwork involved, but that provides a general overview of the process.