Probate court is the part of the judicial system which is dealing with cases related to wills, conservatorship, estates, and guardianship, both of minors and adults. It is often called the Orphan’s court after the organizations established in the North American colonies with the aim to protect the inheritance rights of orphaned children from the misuse by their stepparents and other relatives.
The main function of the court is to assure that all the debts of a deceased person are paid and that the assets of their estate are properly disbursed according to their will. The term itself is also used for describing the legal process of dealing with these assets and liabilities.
In some jurisdictions, probate courts deal also with cases that involve guardianship of both minors and adults, including the involuntary commitment to psychiatric facilities; and also matters related to trusts and similar cases.
DO YOU HAVE TO PROBATE WHEN SOMEONE DIES?
In many jurisdictions, it is absolutely impossible to transfer the ownership of the deceased without probate. But probate can’t start on its own, and in many jurisdictions, the named executioner of the will must petition with the court to open it. As the first step, the court’s role is to certify that the last will of the deceased is genuine and legally valid.
DOES A WIFE HAVE TO PROBATE HER HUSBAND’S WILL?
In the majority of jurisdictions, surviving spouse doesn’t need to probate the will in the case that they were joint owners of the assets. Household items and similar personal property that is not registered or titled are almost always presumed to be jointly owned by spouses. Though cars are titled, in many jurisdictions it is allowed for it to be transferred to surviving spouse without probate.
Assets such as savings, retirement plans, insurance policies, trusts, and similar; most often are designed with a named beneficiary and will automatically pass onto them without probate of the will. But bank accounts, bonds, stocks, and other financial vehicles; will pass to the deceased’s estate and will require the will to be probated before they are distributed.
WHAT ARE THE STEPS OF PROBATE?
In most jurisdictions, the probate procedure has five steps. First is filling the petition to the court by an executioner. This has a goal to establish that the will is a legally valid document and that assets can be distributed to inheritors. The next step in the process is that executors send notices to all interested parties and creditors.
Once the notices are sent or publically announced, the executioner can take inventory of the estate. The fourth step is the actual distribution of the assets, after which the estate can be closed as the final step of the probate process.