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Probate 3 Ways

by Layla Bryant

The probate process can differ from state to state but there is more to it than that. There are three ways that probate differs, even within each state, depending on the value of the estate and the presence, or absence of a last will and testament. For a summary of how probate can be different, read on.

A Will Is Presented

Nearly everyone knows that a will is important. This document, when legal and certified by the probate court, dictates how the deceased wishes to leave their assets. Beneficiaries are named and the probate court also ensures that real estate and other items are kept safe during the probate process, which can last several months. Also, the probate process allows those who have a claim on the estate to come forward. For example, those who believe that the deceased owed them money have the right to make a claim.

No Will Is Presented

In many cases, the deceased failed to make out a will or the will could not be located. Also, it's always possible that the probate court decided that the will presented was invalid. That can happen when it contains illegal provisions, was not properly signed, and so forth. When no valid will is presented, state laws of succession take over and decide who will inherit the estate. The law of succession is a list of people who are in line to inherit based on their relationship to the deceased. Usually, the spouse is first, and then the children of the deceased. The estate still must go through probate but there are slight differences in how things are processed. For example, in many states, the person chosen to oversee the estate during probate is known as the administrator rather than the personal representative or executor.

The Estate Is Small

Most states have special provisions that apply to estates under a certain dollar value. The laws may allow some small estates to skip the process entirely or it might prescribe a shortened process in some states. In most cases, the estate is filed with the probate court but there are fewer forms to file because of fewer assets. For example, with normal probate, the personal representative must present an estate inventory to the court. With a small estate, that is not necessary and there may not be a personal representative appointed at all.

To find out more about any of the above probate situations, turn to a law office to speak to a probate or estate lawyer.