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On probate, and what it means for the testator and family: Part 1

Many people know about estate plans, and they've probably heard the phrase "probate" thrown out into a conversation before -- but they may not know what that important phrase means.

Probate is simply the legal process involved when fulfilling the last wishes of a deceased person and dividing his or her property and assets among the people and organizations involved in the person's estate plan. Probate is supervised by a court, and it usually becomes involved when a person doesn't have a will. Please see our three-part series on wills to learn about these documents and their immense importance to your estate.

Probate relies on the collection of these assets and property, and then having debts and other financial matters sorted out before finally distributing those assets and property in an appropriate manner. Probate can also be contested. This usually happens when an heir is unhappy with the way to estate was administered or how the will was executed. The complaints are similar to, if not exactly like, the reasons we raised in the link in the last paragraph.

Probate may also supersede the intentions of the testator if the court sees fit. This is not common, but it can happen depending on the case and the circumstances involved.

It is also important to note that the probate process can bring about a lot of fees and financial costs that you may not expect. So that raises the question: can you avoid these fees? In fact, can you avoid probate altogether? We'll answer these question in the next installment of our series on probate.

Source: FindLaw, "The Probate Basics," Accessed Oct. 5, 2015

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