When people talk about probate, they often think of the specific scenario where someone goes to court over the disposition of an estate. However, probate law applies to the entirety of the estate process. You may wonder why that is. Let's look at why American law brings the probate court into the equation.
Verifying the Process
The most basic reason you need to take an estate through the probate system is to confirm that the process is going smoothly. For example, the probate court will receive and review copies of the estate's paperwork. Similarly, the court will want to know who is serving as the executor of the estate and how they plan to handle the process. This covers things like confirming that the estate is going through the right county's jurisdiction and publishing public notice of the estate proceedings. The judge will want confirmation that the executor made every possible effort to contact the beneficiaries, too.
A lot of this is very nuts-and-bolts stuff that may not require a probate law attorney as long as there are no disputes. However, an executor might consult with one if they have questions about how to file the paperwork or to address questions from the court.
Protecting Parties' Rights
If there is someone who has some objections to the disposition of the estate, the probate system ensures the court will protect their rights. Suppose somebody sees the public notice but never receives any communication about their status as a beneficiary. If they're certain they are a named beneficiary, they can contact the court and the executor to address the problem.
Probate also allows parties to sort out disputes and concerns. If the executor can't make heads or tails of ambiguous language in a will, for example, a probate judge can provide guidance. Also, parties with different interpretations of the language of the will can ask the court to rule.
Appointing an Administrator
There are some scenarios where an estate might not have an executor. The simplest one is a case where the grantor of the estate didn't name an executor. Sometimes the executor has died or is unavailable and the grantor didn't name a successor. In the most extreme scenario, perhaps the executor and the successor are unavailable.
Probate law requires someone to administer the estate. Absent an executor, the court will appoint an administrator to do fundamentally the same job. The administrator is usually someone versed in probate, estate law, or accounting.Share
17 June 2021
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