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What should I know about the probate process?

The probate process is something that is mystifying for many people. It is easy to assume that when a loved one dies, you just split up his or her stuff and that's the end of the story. This is the case for some families, but there are also times when dividing the estate is a bit more complex.

The probate process is a court-supervised sorting of a decedent's estate. There are certain conditions that must be present in order for the court to note that the estate has to go through probate.

What are the classifications of an estate?

A person who doesn't have an estate plan when he or she passes away is intestate. In this case, the estate is distributed according to the state's succession laws.

When an estate plan is in place, the person dies testate. The will and other estate plan components are followed.

How long does probate take?

Probate can take anywhere from a few months up to 24 months. The time it takes depends on the complexity of the case and whether there are contests to the estate plan or not.

If someone does call the estate plan into question and the claim is valid, the estate process might be considerably longer. It is possible that the case will take years to decades longer if the issues remain unresolved or if the heirs continue to fight over the estate.

One of the best things that a person can do is to set up his or her estate while he or she is able to make decisions for him or herself. This can take the guesswork out of the process for your loved ones.

Source: FindLaw, "Probate Process and Timeline," accessed Oct. 20, 2017

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