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What is “Probate?”

Probate is a legal process, done through the courts, whereby a Personal Representative (may also be referred to as the Executor or Administrator) of a deceased person’s estate.  Once a Personal Representative has been appointed, they have the legal authority to collect the property of the deceased individual, pay their debts and settle their accounts, file all necessary tax returns, and distribute the remaining property to the appropriate individuals–those named in the decedent’s will or, if they do not have a will, by the statutory rules of intestate succession.

The court will verify that the will complies with the relevant legal requirements and settle any disputes as to its validity or enforceability.

While going through probate means that the will becomes public record (privacy can be achieved by using a revocable living trust), there are some benefits.  For instance, once notice has been sent the creditors of the estate, they have to submit a claim within a few months (varies by state) or they lose the right to pursue the debt.  This can cut years off the relevant statute of limitations.  For this reason, it often makes sense for a professional (doctor, accountant, attorney, etc.) to keep their practice outside of their living trust and instead cause it to go through the probate process in order to bar malpractice-type claims and other personal claims, which might otherwise crop up years later.

Maybe you think that you don’t own enough for your estate to need to be probated.  But, in many states, including New Jersey, if you have sole ownership of any asset, your estate will need to be probated.

While it can be intimidating when faced with having to probate the estate of a recently-passed loved one, but the attorneys at Backes & Hill, LLP are here to help.

Backes & Hill, LLP serves clients throughout Mercer County and the surrounding area, including into Pennsylvania and New York. From its office in Lawrenceville, the firm represents clients in a variety of practice areas, including personal injury, employment law, and estate planning. Call 609-396-8257 or contact us online to schedule a meeting. Attorney Scott Puro is ready to help you today.

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