The Probate Process

Probate is the legal process that takes place after someone dies. The purpose of probate is to distribute estate assets to the rightful heirs and beneficiaries and prevent fraud after someone’s death.  It’s a way to freeze the estate assets until a judge determines that the Will is valid, that all the legitimate heirs have been notified, that all the property in the estate has been identified and appraised, and that creditors and taxes have been paid. The probate process is initiated in the county of the decedent’s legal residence at death. If the estate is intestate (with no valid Will), the court determines who should receive the decedent’s property. Then the probate court issues an Order to distribute the inheritance assets, and the estate is closed.

The probate timeline depends on such factors as estate size, type of assets owned, form of ownership, tax issues, complexity of creditors’ claims, locating heirs and beneficiaries, marital property issues, and whether a business is involved. The length of time needed to complete a probate estate depends on the size and complexity of the estate, local rules, and schedule of the probate court. Certain states may take longer.

The complexity of the estate, the determinability and number of heirs to the estate, and the law that governs the estate are factors that affect when the heirs receive their final distribution. There can be all sorts of surprises, mysteries and unexpected occurrences that can arise during a probate such as will contests, proceedings to remove the executor for breach of fiduciary duty, and litigation claims filed by creditors.  These issues can become very emotional and sensitive creating delays in settling and closing of the estate.

American Research Bureau (ARB) has specialized in locating missing or unknown heirs and connecting them with their rightful inheritance for over 80 years. We never contact anyone unless we are confident the individuals we identify are the apparent heirs.

Click on the graphic below to view the timeline of a typical estate administration.

Probate Timeline