What is Probate?

What is Probate?

What is Probate?

If someone close to you dies and has a will, you might think everything will go smoothly, and assets will be distributed accordingly without any problems or questions. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. If a will is contested or there are debts to pay, the Probate process can take months or even years to complete.

So, what is Probate, and what can you expect during this time? Keep reading for more information!

What is Probate, and why is it important to know how the process can affect you?

In simplest terms, Probate is the procedure your estate goes through after you pass away. Probate is the legal process of proving that a will is valid and that the deceased person’s assets are distributed according to their wishes. This process can be complicated and often takes months or even years, especially when there is no will or testament.

During Probate, the court appoints an executor (or personal representative) to manage the estate. The executor is responsible for collecting the deceased person’s assets, paying their debts, and distributing the remaining assets to their beneficiaries.

If the deceased person doesn’t have a will, the court will appoint an administrator to manage the estate. The administrator will follow the state’s laws to distribute the assets.

What happens when someone dies? Will all assets go through probate?

When someone dies, their assets will usually go through Probate. This includes houses, cars, bank accounts, investments, and personal belongings. 

Some assets, like life insurance policies and retirement accounts, can be passed on to beneficiaries without probate.

How long does Probate take?

The answer to this question depends on a few factors, including whether there is a will, how complex the estate is, and whether there are any challenges to the will.

Generally, simple estates with a valid will can be settled within a few months. More complex estates can take years to settle or resolve.

What happens during Probate?

During Probate, the executor or administrator will:

  • Locate and collect the deceased person’s assets. This includes money in bank accounts, investments, real estate, and personal property.
  • Pay the deceased person’s debts, including taxes, credit card bills, mortgages, and other outstanding loans.
  • Distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries.

If there is no will, the administrator will follow the state’s laws to distribute the assets.

Can I avoid Probate?

There are a few ways to avoid Probate, including:

  • Creating a living trust. The trust can be used to hold assets and distribute them according to your wishes without going through Probate.
  • Setting up a solid estate plan. When you plan everything out in detail, the probate process can be simplified or even completely avoided.
  • Transferring ownership of assets to a beneficiary. For example, you can add a beneficiary to your bank account or share your home ownership with your child.
  • Giving gifts during your lifetime. You can give up to $14,000 per person annually without triggering gift taxes.

If you have a small estate, you might be able to use the small estate affidavit process to avoid Probate altogether.

What are the disadvantages of avoiding Probate?

The main disadvantage of avoiding Probate is that it can be challenging to change your mind later. For example, if you add a beneficiary to your bank account, you can’t remove them without their permission.

It’s also important to note that avoiding Probate does not always save money. In some cases, it can end up costing more.

Should I hire a lawyer?

If your probate is uncontested, you don’t need a lawyer. You are not required to hire someone to go through the probate process, but it is often a good idea to get professional help. We can help you navigate the legal system and ensure everything is done correctly. We at Guideway Legal can assist you in valuing assets, identifying debts, and settling the estate. Learn more about our comprehensive probate service here: https://guidewaylegal.com/probate/


Probate is the legal process of validating and distributing the deceased person’s assets in case someone dies without a living trust. The process can be complicated and take months or even years to complete. 

There are a few ways to avoid Probate, like setting up a living trust or estate plan. If you want more information about how to avoid Probate, or if the process sounds daunting, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re happy to explain!