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What should you know about probate?

Probate can be an extended process, and it is important to know key facts about it. Here are the answers to some questions.

What is probate?

Probate is the name for dealing with key transactions. These include transferring property from the estate of a person who died to that person's heirs and beneficiaries. Also included is making sure that the deceased individual's financial obligations are taking care of and establishing the validity of the will.

Who do probate courts appoint to manage estates?

Probate cases where there is a will have an executor appointed, and probate cases where there is not a will have an administrator appointed. Those individuals, in the respective types of cases, are charged with multiple duties. Their duties include collecting and making an accounting of the estate's assets, paying expenses and debts of the estate and distributing what remains to beneficiaries.

How long does the probate process take?

That varies according to how complex a case is. Some assets might take a long time to liquidate, and there might be questions about debts that are owed that will take time to resolve. Additionally, beneficiaries may contest provisions of a will, and that can slow the process down even further. Often, it takes between 9 months and 1.5 years.

How do you know if you need to go through probate?

Ultimately, this is dependent upon the specifics of your case and can be determined in consultation with a qualified professional. Factors affecting it are the type of title ownership and the type of contract involved. One example of a contract that does not need to go through probate is a life insurance policy with specific named beneficiaries.

Source: California Courts: The Judicial Branch of California, "Wills, Estates, and Probate," accessed July 15, 2015

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