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What is Probate?

Last Will & TestamentWhat is probate? And why should you be concerned about it?

Here’s a quick Q&A concerning this important issue.

Q. What is probate?
A. Probate is the process by which the contents of a person’s estate are distributed upon their death.

Q. Doesn’t a will already do that?
A. The probate process: 1) Establishes that a will is valid and 2) Establishes a process for executing the terms of the will in an orderly fashion.

Q. Who is in charge of the probate process?
A. The rules for probate are established by the individual states and administered by a probate court within each state.

Q. What if a person dies without leaving a will?
A. This is called dying “intestate.” Generally, if the deceased has a surviving spouse – a husband or a wife – or children, the assets of the estate go straight to them. But if there is no surviving spouse or children, then the state probate court determines how the assets are distributed according to its rules.

Q. What is the usual process for distributing assets under the rules of probate?
A. Again, this varies from state to state. But usually, the contents and value of the estate are determined by the court. Then, from those assets, any outstanding taxes are paid to the state and federal government, and any creditors are allowed to claim outstanding payments. Finally, if any assets – cash, real estate, jewelry, etc. – are left, they are distributed to the beneficiaries as directed in the will.

Q. Who is in charge of doing this distribution?
A. Distribution is usually done by an executor – a person named in the will – or by an officer of the court.

Q. How long does probate take?
A. That can depend on the state where the deceased lived, the size of the estate, the number and size of outstanding taxes and/or debts and the number and location of beneficiaries.

Q. Can probate be avoided?
A. People with larger estates are usually able to avoid probate altogether by putting their assets into a family trust, which then becomes the owner of the assets.

Paralegal Training Offered by Everest University Online

Wills and probate are just two of the many topics you’ll learn when you train for a paralegal career with Everest University Online, a division of Everest University. Everest University Online offers two-year associate degree and four-year bachelor’s degree online paralegal programs. Other subjects include contracts, family law, torts and civil procedure.

Graduates of Everest University Online’s Paralegal programs often go on to rewarding careers working for law firms, corporate legal departments and government agencies. Everest’s Career Services team assists graduates in transitioning from school to the workplace by providing support in everything from resume writing to identifying and contacting local employers.

For more information on Everest University Online’s Paralegal programs, contact Everest University Online today. Financial aid is available for those who qualify.

Note: Paralegals may not provide legal services directly to the public, except as permitted by law.

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