What is probate?

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Updated: 4/13/2007 6:35 pm
When a person dies, his or her property can be distributed in one of three ways: by will, by living trust, or by state law governing the distribution of property when there's no will or trust. If a person dies without a living trust, generally the transfer of the property will be administered by the probate court, and the court proceedings are called 'probate.' Probate proceedings for property are often subject to costs and delays. Preparing a simple living trust or changing the title to property before death may eliminate the need for a court probate action, or at least allow a summary probate proceeding. In a regular probate, the court will appoint an administrator or executor (eggs-ECK-you-ter) to determine the whereabouts of the deceased's assets, pay all debts and taxes, and finally distribute the property to the proper persons. The court must review and approve all actions of the administrator or executor. A probate will generally take six to twelve months, unless there are complications. A complicated estate involving, for instance, the sale of real property, may take two years or more to complete. For more information on probate or avoiding probate by preparing a living trust, please contact an attorney.
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