Probate Law

Navigating the probate process

Probate is a legal process where the validity of a will is established before a state court. Probate proceedings may also include authorizing a representative to act on behalf of the decedent’s estate as well as oversee the inventory and distribution of the decedent’s property and the payment of the decedent’s debts.

There are a number of types of probate proceedings. One is a formal probate proceeding. Here, the state probate court oversees the entirety of the estate administration, and the probate judge must approve each and every transaction of the estate. If at all possible, this type of supervised administration is avoided. Today, supervised probate proceedings usually occur only when a will does not provide for an independent administration, a will contest is involved, a party requests it, or the capacity or actions of the estate’s representative have been challenged in court.

The majority of state proceedings involve independent probate.
Here, the role of the probate court is minimal since prior planning has eliminated the need for the formalized option. An independent personal representative, once approved by the court, administers the estate with minimal court supervision.

Certain estates may be eligible for a simpler form of probate known as muniment of title or probate without administration.

It is important for the person nominated as the personal representative of an estate to seek legal counsel in the matter. As evident from the information above, there are a number of options available for probating an estate. Perhaps more importantly, the personal representative of an estate owes certain fiduciary duties to the beneficiaries of the estate. A qualified attorney can assist the personal representative in navigating the probate process and fulfilling his or her fiduciary obligations.

Probate attorneys also assist in matters involving a decedent’s dependent children or dependent elders.
The untimely death of an individual often leaves children or aging parents needing legal protection and assistance. Guardianships and other ancillary proceedings are all within the province of the probate court.