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Probate is the legal process in which a will is evaluated for validity, and then an executor is to administer a decedent’s estate as described in the will. Probate legalities vary by state, so an attorney can help you research what specific laws may apply to you. An attorney can also help determine whether probate is even necessary, whether the fiduciary must be bonded, and which documents are required for probate court. The executor of the decedent’s will is responsible for getting probate initiated, obtaining an attorney, and managing assets throughout the process.

Duration of Probate

Probate can be a very complex and prolonged process in which there are many moving parts. The average probate can take a few months, or several years. Probate may take longer if the will is disputed by family members who are not happy with a decision.

When Family Receives Assets

Beneficiaries listed in the decedent’s will cannot receive their designated assets until the court has closed the estate and approved the executor to move forward. All debts must be paid, including estate taxes, court fees and money owed to creditors.

Notifying Beneficiaries & Creditors

Those who are listed as beneficiaries in the will are to be officially notified of the probate process to come. Creditors are to receive notices too, so claims for debts owed can be submitted and paid from the decedent’s estate.

Hiring an Attorney

Most people are so busy with work and other responsibilities that they are not able to make all the court hearings, find required paperwork and even research what probate is all about. Incomplete documents or missed deadlines may cause a delay in the probate process. This can lead to the decedent’s assets being tied up within the court system for longer than necessary. Seeking an attorney is not required during probate. However, because this type of legal proceeding can get very complicated and frustrating, it can help to have the support of an estate planning lawyer.

Duties of a Will Executor

In addition to safeguarding and managing the decedent’s assets, a will executor may have a variety of other roles to fulfill as well. The role of a will executor is very important when it comes to handling the decedent’s estate with respect and diligence. A list of duties the executor must uphold can include:

  • Meeting and communicating with beneficiaries
  • Finding the assets & managing until distribution to beneficiaries is approved
  • Sending notices to banks, credit card & government companies of the death
  • Being the representative of the decedent’s estate
  • Maintaining property of the estate until it is to be sold or transferred to beneficiary
  • A duty to act in a fair and honest manner regarding the estate



Thank you to our contributors at Klenk Law for their knowledge about estate planning and probate.