Often, a will must be submitted to the probate court in the county in which the deceased died. The probate court supervises the administration of the deceased’s estate. A personal representative- often named in the will, but sometimes appointed by the probate court- is responsible for administering the estate, wrapping up the affairs of the deceased, and distributing assets and property in accordance with the will.
Once the will is submitted to the court, a probate estate is opened. The probate court issues Letters of Authority to the personal representative, which grants the personal representative the power to administer the estate. These letters allow the personal representative access to the deceased’s bank accounts, pay the deceased’s debts, and otherwise act in place of the deceased.
There are three types of probate estates. For estates valued under $22,000 (adjusted yearly for inflation, a small estate may be opened. A small estate is a streamlined process. The other two estates are for those valued over $22,000, an estate may be either supervised or unsupervised. An unsupervised estate only involves the court at the beginning and the end of the probate estate. A supervised estate has much more court involvement. Typically, when there is a dispute or creditors, the estate must be supervised by the court.
The probate process can be a lengthy one. Typically, it takes a minimum of about 8 months from the time a probate estate is opened until it can be closed. If there is a dispute or litigation, the process can be much lengthier. This is one reason people elect to do a trust over a will. Furthermore, a will is a public document once it is submitted to the probate court, and anyone has access to view the deceased’s will. This is also another reason people elect to create a trust, as a trust is a private document.