What is Probate?

In the United States, probate is generally referred to as the legal process used to administer the estate of the decedent. The probate process involves:

  • An accounting of the decedent’s assets.

  • Distribution to heirs, creditors, beneficiaries and anyone else entitled to payment from the estate.

  • Contrary to popular belief, having a will does not excuse an estate from going through probate, nor does not having a will ensure probate is necessary.

The Probate Process

The probate process in the United States can be complicated and hard to understand, especially because it varies by county and state. For example, while each state’s probate code will describe their basic probate law, the cases themselves are administered by the county courts and county processes may differ in fees and procedure. Overall, the best way to find out about the probate process in your location is to call your county or state courthouse or contact an attorney.

The Uniform Probate Code

While the majority of probate laws are dictated on a state-by-state basis, there has been some attempt at uniformity through the Uniform Probate Code. The Uniform Probate Code was intended to help organize and clarify the probate process. As always, check with your state courthouse or an attorney to ensure you’re following the correct procedure.