The probate process is not a painful one, but it is a necessary step in estate administration. It is the reviewing of a decedent’s will and where the estate settlement occurs. Details spill out and grievances aired in a several months-long process. And it can be costly, too.

The key component to a smooth probate process is having a definitive, accurate and meticulous will in place. With its specific instructions, such a will provides long-needed peace of mind to heirs and beneficiaries. While they may applaud you for your preparation, some may be disgruntled upon the reading of the will and estate settlement. But that is another matter.

Authenticate, settlement and distribution

The probate process addresses many matters. Here are some of the important things that take place:

  • The will gets authenticated. In other words, the judge ensures that the will is valid. For example, the document must be signed by the decedent as well as by at least two witnesses.
  • In case an executor has not been named, one is appointed.
  • With the help of the judge, the executor assembles an inventory of the decedent’s property.
  • The value of all assets from the decedent’s estate gets determined.
  • Payment of all bills and taxes owed by the estate.
  • The settling of all disputes between dissatisfied beneficiaries and heirs occurs.
  • Distribution of the remaining estate occurs.

People who want to avoid the probate process can do so by choosing to create a living trust. Through a trust, a trustee holds the assets for beneficiaries. And unlike wills, a trust is not part of the public record. When people select an estate plan, they usually go with either the will or trust routes. If you have questions about them as well as the probate process, it is a good idea to obtain legal advice.