Specifically, it refers to state laws that oversee the probate process, which involves validating a deceased person's Last Will and Testament (if there is one), paying Debts and taxes they may have had, and distributing any remaining Assets to Surviving Family, or rightful Heirs, and Beneficiaries.
The purpose of probate is to ensure that the deceased's estate is managed appropriately, without error or fraud, according to the wishes outlined in their Last Will and Testament and in accordance with state law.
In some other cases, probate may be avoided altogether by the creation of a Living Trust, a Transfer-on-Death designation on a Joint Account, or the deceased's estate is considered to hold Non-Probate Assets.
When managing probate, it's best to work with an Estate Attorney or Probate Attorney to help manage the process and ensure that state laws are adhered to and the estate is successfully Settled and Distributed.
Key components of the probate process include:
Validation of the Will: If the deceased had a valid Will, the first step in probate is to submit the will to the court for validation. The court reviews the will to ensure it meets legal requirements, such as being properly executed, and that it accurately represents the deceased person's wishes.
Appointment of an Executor: If the deceased person named an Executor in their will, the court will appoint that person to oversee the probate process. If there is no named executor, or the named person is unavailable or unwilling to serve, the court appoints someone else, known as an Administrator, to perform these duties.
Inventory of Assets: The executor or administrator compiles an Inventory of the deceased person's Assets, which can include real estate, personal property, financial accounts, investments, and other belongings.
Notice to Creditors and Beneficiaries: The court requires the executor or administrator to provide a Notice to Creditors, allowing them to make claims against the estate for any Debts owed. Beneficiaries and Heirs are also notified of the probate proceedings.
Payment of Debts and Taxes: Outstanding debts and taxes of the deceased person's estate, such as Funeral expenses, medical bills, and Estate Taxes, are paid from the estate's assets. This step must be completed before remaining assets are distributed to beneficiaries.
Distribution of Assets: After debts and taxes have been settled, remaining assets are distributed to beneficiaries according to the terms of the will, Trust, or applicable Laws of Intestacy, if the deceased did not have a will. The court supervises this process to ensure it is carried out correctly.
Final Accounting: The executor or administrator provides a Final Accounting of the estate's financial transactions, including income, expenses, and asset distributions, to the court. Once approved, this accounting finalizes the probate process.