A Comprehensive Guide to Probate Procedure and Who Needs It


When a loved one dies, their estate can be a problem, and probate is one of the things that will add to the already complicated matter. Probate is the process of distributing the assets of an individual who has died in accordance with state law.

Probate can be a complex procedure and sometimes even a confusing one. If you are seeking clarity on what probate is, how it works, and who needs it, then this article will provide you with all this information.


What Exactly Is Probate?

Probate is the process that follows a death when you want to ensure that your loved ones are treated fairly and that your assets are distributed following your wishes. It is not complicated, but it can be a little nerve-wracking if you are unprepared.

Probate is a court procedure that allows the executor of your estate-the person who handles all legal matters related to your estate-to administer the property and distribute it as you would like.

You do not have to go through probate if there are no questions about who owns what or where things should go. But probate becomes necessary if there is any doubt or confusion about these issues.

Person signing a paper


When Is Probate Necessary?

Probate is necessary when someone dies without a will. A probate proceeding is a court process that lets the court decide which of the deceased's assets should be distributed to heirs.

If there is no will or the will fails to make specific provisions for certain heirs or particular assets, then the court has to decide who will get what from the estate.

The court may also determine how much money each person gets and whether they inherit anything (in other words, it can create a final distribution of assets). Probate can be expensive, which is why Estate Planning is crucial if you have assets that would be difficult to handle or want them to be given to whoever in your family you want them to go to.

But if you are not prepared for all this, the expense of probate will be worth it if there are concerns about how your property will be distributed after your death.


Do You Need a Probate Lawyer?

If you have recently lost a loved one and are wondering whether or not probate is required, the answer is yes. Every state has a probate process that must be followed for an individual to bequeath property to their heirs. In some states, this process can be relatively straightforward; in others, it can be intricate and lengthy.

These numerous factors can complicate the probate process:

  • Multiple heirs (sometimes with competing claims)
  • The size of the estate
  • Whether or not any debts remain after paying off funeral costs (including outstanding mortgages
  • How much income will be available to pay taxes on the deceased's property


You should contact a probate lawyer if you need help navigating your state's probate laws. A good probate lawyer will know how best to guide you through the process so that everything goes smoothly without any issues arising from your loved one's death or the circumstances surrounding their passing away.


How Long Does Probate Procedure Take?

The probate process is slightly different for everyone, but it will likely take anywhere from 6 months to over two years. The length of time you will need to wait depends on where you live, how complicated your estate plan is, and what happens when there is a disagreement between family members about who gets what.

It will be much shorter if you prepare and create an estate plan in advance. For example, if you have already created a will and have chosen a guardian for your kids (or other people), they can take care of most of the probate process while you are alive.

However, if your estate plan does not include these, the probate could take a while, especially if disagreements over what goes where or who gets what.


What Are the Costs Associated with Probate Procedure?

Probate can be complicated, but the right probate attorney can help. If you are considering probate and are wondering what it entails, let us take a look at some of the costs associated with this process, it may vary from state to state, but in general, it will include:

  • Attorney fees: these include the attorney who represents your family during the probate process and those involved in other aspects.

    For starters, hiring an attorney to represent you in court is expensive. The following factors will determine how much your attorney will charge:

    • The complexity of your case
    • The amount of time involved in the case (beyond just filing)
    • The likelihood that someone else will sue you over your estate
    • The value of the estate at the time of death (if there is no will or trust)

  • Taxes: these taxes include any taxes that have been assessed against your estate before its distribution (which may consist of inheritance tax).

  • Court fees: this includes filing fees, jury fees, and court costs associated with setting up an estate plan (unless you are using a will).


Final Thoughts

Ultimately, there is no black-and-white answer to whether you need a will. While it is unclear whether bequeathing assets through a variety of trusts and wills is better than outright distribution, the mortality rate of individuals makes planning imperative, no matter how well-off you might be.