What is probate?

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What Is Probate

If you are someone who has been diligent in managing and saving your money so that when you pass you can provide a significant amount of assets to your heirs, you may be frustrated with a process called probate. Based on the size of your estate, when going through probate your beneficiaries may not be receiving as much of your inheritance as you may have wished.

At the time of your death, the legal process of probate is used to determine if your will is valid. This process can be very detailed and complex with numerous visits to an attorney for paperwork and numerous court appearances which can have detrimental effect on inheritance due to costs. This can leave less of your assets to pass on. You may have heard about avoiding probate court, if you never knew why, it is for that reason.

Process of probate

After you die, the person who was designated as your executor, or, if you do not have a will, a person who is appointed by a judge, will file documents in probate court. It is the responsibility of the executor to prove the validity of your will and give the court all the information on your property, debts and the names of your beneficiaries. The executor will also need to be the one who notifies creditors of your death.

It is up to the executor to locate and manage your assets. This process may take some time, in some cases, many months to even over a year. If you have substantial debts, it will be up to the executor to sell property or real estate to satisfy what is owed.

Should you plan to avoid probate?

Probate court will rarely benefit your beneficiaries and as mentioned above, will cost money and time. Probate may make sense if there are complications associated with your estate, for example, if you have many debts that are not payable via the assets you leave behind.

Avoiding probate will depend on different types of circumstances that can include wealth, health and your age. Being young or having very few assets may not be worthwhile in taking time to work on avoiding probate. If neither of these conditions pertain to you, you should consider taking steps to avoid probate during your estate planning.


Michael Ritigstein is a Founding Partner of the firm concentrating his efforts in supporting the firm's litigation, corporate and estate matters. Mr. Ritigstein graduated from the University of Delaware in 1996 and Seton Hall University School of Law in 2000. In 2007 he received a Masters of Law in Taxation with a concentration in Estate Planning, from Temple University's Beasley School of Law.

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