Probate is the process of administering a decedent's estate. This includes settling the decedent's debts and legal title to the decedent's property. If the decedent had a will, and the decedent had property subject to probate (i.e., property not held in a trust), the probate process begins when the executor presents the will for probate in a courthouse in the county where the decedent lived or owned property.
When selecting an attorney it is important to note the highly jurisdictional nature of probate law. Because it is done on a county by county basis, often times it can be helpful to find a local attorney who is familiar with the local processes and procedures.
Do all assets go through probate?
There are three types of property that do not have to go through probate:
1. Property held jointly, with survivorship rights. This typically includes things such as real estate, motor vehicles, and other property with a title document.
2. Property with a designated beneficiary. This includes life insurance policies, IRAs, and other bank accounts.
3. Property held in trust. Property that is owned by a living trust, revocable or irrevocable, does not need to go through probate. Upon the decedent's death, the trustee transfers the trust property to those designated as beneficiaries in the trust.
How long does probate take?
The length of the probate process is highly individualized to the particular decedent, but typically a probate process will take between six months to two years. The length of the process depends primarily on the size and complexity of the estate.