10 Tips On Navigating Probate

10 Tips On Navigating Probate

Probate is a process used to determine the validity of a will, ensuring that all debts are paid and then distributing the remaining assets of the deceased’s estate to their heirs. It can be expensive, time-consuming, and emotionally draining for all involved.

There are many steps to probate, and it can be a complicated process. If you’re considering the probate process for your loved one or friend’s estate, or you’re wondering how long does the probate process take, here is what you need to know before getting started. We will discuss what probate entails and how it’s different from other types of estate administration. Read on to learn some tips and tricks you can do before hiring an attorney or proceeding with probate on your own.

The Estate Of The Deceased

The person who dies is known as the “decedent.” The decedent’s estate is everything that the decedent owned at the time of death. It also includes any assets that were transferred to the decedent during his or her lifetime but which were not yet in his or her possession at the time of death (such as a stock certificate held by a brokerage company). The estate includes all property and assets from the decedent’s family, including spouse, children, parents, and siblings.

Estate Administration

Estate administration is the process of administering the decedent’s estate according to his or her will if the decedent died with a valid will. If there is no will, then state law will determine how the estate gets distributed. The decedent’s debts must be paid off before any assets are distributed to the heirs. This is the process that is known as probate.


Probate is an administration process used to distribute the deceased’s assets. It does not have to be complicated and it can be as simple as listing all assets, paying off debts, and distributing the remaining property to heirs. Probate can be complicated, however, especially if there are a lot of assets and many beneficiaries. Probate is sometimes called “estate administration” or “probate administration.”

Probate Process

The probate process starts when a person dies without a will (known as a “testate” death). Notice of the decedent’s death is filed with the local probate court. The decedent’s assets are listed and appraised. The decedent’s debts are paid off from the assets in his estate. The remaining estate assets are distributed according to the will (if there is one), or according to state law if there is no will. When the estate is fully closed, you are done administering it with probate and can turn over all of the estate documents to your client or his beneficiaries.

Types of Probate

There are several types of probate administration. They include:

Small Estate 

Also known as simplified probate, this is when you don’t need an attorney to handle probate because the value of the estate is under $100,000 and real estate doesn’t exceed $50,000. You can use forms provided by your state’s government to manage small estates. You do not need a lawyer to complete these forms. If you prefer to hire an attorney, though, you can do so. If you go this route, you will typically pay higher attorney fees than if you handle small estates in-house with forms. Wills proved during these proceedings must be filed with the local probate court within 30 days after the testator’s death.

Regular Probate

This is when an attorney is needed to administer probate because the value of the estate exceeds $100,000 or real estate exceeds $50,000, or more than one piece of real estate is involved (such as multiple properties owned together).

Summary Administration

This type of administration is used when a joint tenant with the right of survivorship dies and only one person survives him/her in joint tenancy. This type of administration only requires one probate proceeding instead of two for joint tenants with the right of survivorship estates.

Small Estate Administration

This type of administration may be used when there are no surviving joint tenants with the right of survivorship but there are surviving joint tenants without the right of survivorship or tenants in common. This type of administration only requires one probate proceeding instead of two. This type of administration is used when the gross value of the estate of a decedent who dies intestate is $100,000 or less, including real and personal property, but excluding homestead.

Probate Process Start

The estate administrator files a Petition for Probate in the proper probate court after the decedent dies. The petition must include:

  • A certified copy of the death certificate (or a record that the decedent died)
  • A copy of the will (if there is one)
  • An estimate of the value of the estate property
  • A description of any real property, if you are trying to sell it
  • The name and address of the person who has been appointed as personal representative of the estate (this can be an executor, administrator, or someone else depending on the will provisions)

Executor Appointed

After the petition is filed, a hearing is held before a judge, who then appoints an executor. The executor is often one of the heirs or beneficiaries of the estate who is named in the will. However, if all heirs are unwilling or unable to serve as executors, then the judge appoints a suitable person from a list sent to him by the local probate court. If no suitable person can be found, then the judge may appoint a professional fiduciary. The fiduciary is responsible for managing the estate until it is closed. The executor’s job is to carry out the terms of the will and responsibility for paying off debts and distributing assets to heirs.

Opening An Estate Account

The executor must open an estate account with a bank or financial institution with access to all trust accounts. This account is used to pay off the decedent’s debts and distribute assets. The estate administrator must also open an individual account for each heir or beneficiary of the estate. All payments to heirs or beneficiaries will be made from their individual accounts. These accounts are only for the distribution of assets, not payment of estate debts. These accounts are opened by the executor or administrator and are used to pay creditors’ claims and distribute property to beneficiaries.

Paying Off Debts And Expenses

The executor must determine whether there are any debts owed by or to the deceased that must be paid before distributions are made to beneficiaries. If so, these debts must be paid first. After that, you may need to collect and liquidate any investment assets such as stocks and bonds before distributing them to beneficiaries. You may need to gather stock certificates from banks or brokers for this purpose. After debts are paid, money is distributed to beneficiaries in accordance with the will (if there is one) or according to state law if there is no will.

Close Estate Account(s)

After all, debts have been paid off and all distributions have been made, you close your estate account(s). At this time, you can also request that all securities be transferred into your name or that they be registered in the beneficiary’s names. You can also request that securities be delivered by mail or electronically via broker transfer at this time if you prefer not to handle them yourself. Keep in mind that securities have certain transfer requirements, which vary from company to company, so it’s best to contact your broker or financial institution in advance. For example, that might mean arranging for a tax ID number before making payments to beneficiaries.


Navigating probate can be quite difficult if you are unacquainted with all the legal terms, and most people have never heard them before. Not only is it confusing for most people, but can be really expensive, emotionally draining for everyone involved, and can take up a lot of your time. It’s important to know all the steps you need to take before you get started so it doesn’t become an even more complicated process than it already is. You want to validate the will and make sure that all debts are paid off from the deceased before dividing all assets to the deceased’s heirs. Hopefully, after reading this article you have become well versed in all the things that probate entails and how it can differ from other types of estate administration. If you still don’t feel confident proceeding on your own, then it is probably in your best interest to hire an attorney