Understanding how wills and estates work is critical, especially if you or someone you know is old or in poor health. The execution of the will will determine who gets the property of the deceased and how the estate will be divided up. To help you get a better idea of how the process works, here is an overview of one of the most important steps: probate.
What is probate?
Probate is a process that revolves around a court stamping a seal of approval on a will. Until that approval has been granted, the will cannot be executed and the estate of the deceased cannot be divided up and passed down. The general idea is that the court wants to make sure that the will is valid and that it accurately reflects the wishes of the deceased. Perhaps more importantly to the court, the process also ensures that debts are repaid and taken out of the estate before it gets split up and passed down.
What determines if a will is valid?
In most cases, the probate process proceeds smoothly and assumes that the will was valid. However, this can be called into question, since any party can challenge the process. When such a challenge is issued, the court will examine the claims of each party and determine if the will is valid. Common causes for such conflicts can include illegitimate children wishing to claim sections of the estate, cases where the will was tampered with, or even situations where the deceased was coerced into signing and/or writing a will.
How does the court handle the debts of the deceased?
The estate of the deceased is inventoried and then any debts (including taxes) are examined. If the debts are valid, then the creditors will be repaid from the value of the estate. If the estate doesn't contain money and is instead made up of valuables like jewelry, then portions of the estate may be auctioned off in order to pay the pertinent debts
Who represents the deceased's estate in the process?
The executor of the estate is responsible for making sure that the will gets through probate and that the estate is properly divided up and passed down. They will also need to inventory the estate and make sure that debtors are repaid, so there is a fair bit of responsibility involved with the position. If the executor is not acting in the interests of the estate, then they may be held liable and removed from the position.
To learn more, contact a probate attorney.