What is a Probate Court?

Probate is a term you've come across, whether you've created your own personal estate plan or assisted with someone else's. The legal procedure for allocating an estate following someone's passing is called probate. A probate court is in charge of overseeing this procedure and assigns a representative who will handle your estate. The court then collaborates with that individual to ensure that your debts and assets are settled and dispersed to the appropriate individuals. 

Local and state laws govern probate courts. This implies that based on your location, some probate laws, such as those relating to deadlines or community property, may be different.

More on Probate Courts

To make sure everything goes smoothly and that your property is taken care of after your passing, a probate court will:

  • Validate your trust, last will, and testament.
  • Appoint an executor, also referred to as a personal representative, to handle your estate.
  • Appoint a guardian for any small children or animals (these positions are considered first).
  • Make sure your unpaid debts are settled.
  • Select beneficiaries should you lack a legal will.
  • Ensure that your properties are divided appropriately, either per the directions of the will or, if you had no will, per state laws.
  • Take care of the proceedings if someone challenges or disputes your will.

The probate court can become engaged in your property and estate before your death. If you become incapable of managing your finances independently or become incompetent, the court might be required to establish a conservatorship.

Here's what happens in a probate court

You must cooperate with the court to finish the probate proceedings if you’re the estate executor. Here are the steps involved in this judicial procedure:

  1. Submitting A Judicial Request

If you have been named the executor of the deceased will, you must apply to the court for permission to start the probate procedure. You must file a probate petition application form which you may obtain from the county office, local court, or through an estate lawyer.

The probate court will schedule a series of hearings once you complete the paperwork. The procedure typically consists of two hearings; however, this might change based on the location of the deceased place of residence, the complexity of their estate, or whether or not the will is challenged or declared invalid.

     2. The First Hearing

The judge will initially examine the will on the first court hearing to confirm its authenticity and decide its legitimacy. They will legally name you as the estate executor and issue a testamentary letter after determining the will is legitimate. A testamentary letter demonstrates your authority as the estate manager.

You can begin settling the deceased estate after the first hearing. Typically, this includes:

  • Tax returns for estate assets.
  • Paying off any outstanding bills, such as debt from credit cards or car payments.
  • Getting in touch with recipients and other stakeholders.
  • Amounts being distributed in accordance with the will.

After completing these steps, you will file a petition for the estate's final distribution. The court then sets a date for the second hearing.

     3. Second hearing

The court would formally certify that an estate has been settled during the second and, oftentimes, last hearing. The judge then confirms if the estate's assets have been dispersed to beneficiaries and that its debts and taxes have been cleared. Following confirmation, the judge then closes the estate, putting an end to the probate procedure.

Testacy Vs. Intestacy

Before proceeding, the court will decide whether the deceased's will is genuine, that is, if they wrote a will (testate). The probate will name an executor who'll administer the deceased's assets by their wishes as soon as the will has been determined to be legitimate. If they designated an executor within the will, that individual would be given preference over everyone else. The judge will, however, select an executor on their behalf if they fail to do so. This will oftentimes be the deceased's close relative. The executor will start overseeing the estate after it’s been approved.

On the other hand, the procedure changes when the deceased has no will (intestate) or if the court rules that their current will is invalid. The court will appoint an estate manager to oversee the probate procedure. A manager serves in the same capacity as an executor, except they are chosen mostly by a court rather than the will's creator. The probate court would apply the intestate succession laws to decide who should inherit the deceased's property. The court will instruct the administrator to allocate the assets following these statutes. 

What Is The Duration Of Probate Court?

The duration of probate court varies from a couple of months to years. There are various variables that impact how long it takes. This includes:

  • The court's schedule and workload at this time
  • The state of residence of the deceased
  • Their estate's size and intricacy
  • The existence of a will
  • Whether the will is challenged or ruled invalid
  • If it’s difficult to locate their beneficiaries or close relatives

Is Legal Representation Required In Probate Court?

You, the executor, might be able to manage the probate procedure on your own if the deceased had an uncomplicated estate. However, you might want to think about working with an estate lawyer to help make sure everything is done correctly, on time, and no major issues come up.

Conclusion: Simplify The Process

The purpose of the probate court is to ensure that estates are distributed fairly. The procedure is simpler for everyone concerned when there is a current, legal will. We at Dixie Law Group, PSC, can assist you and your family. We offer a skilled, knowledgeable estate planning staff that can guide you through every step of creating a will or planning an estate. Call us at 502-208-1436 to schedule an appointment right now!

Reach Out To Us For Help

We work closely with our clients and offer vigorous representation both in and out of the courtroom. If you would like to learn more about our services, please reach out to our office today.

You can contact our lawyers in Louisville at 502-806-8711 or contact us online. Initial consultations are always free.


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