Common Probate FAQs

What is Probate? 

Historically, the term “probate” meant the act of proving a will’s validity. Now it has a much more general meaning, commonly referring to the process that is used to administer a deceased person’s estate, regardless if that person left behind a will. 

Who is the Decedent?

The decedent is the person who passed away.

What is the Estate?

The “estate” refers to all the money and property owned by the decedent at the time of death.

What does Testate and Intestate mean?

When a decedent dies testate, it means they left behind a valid will. When a decedent dies intestate, it means they did not leave behind a will or the will is invalid.

Who is the Personal Representative?

Also known as the executor, this person is appointed either in the will or by the court to administer the estate.

Who are the Heirs?

The person(s) legally entitled to inherit from an intestate estate. Each state has different laws, but the heirs, in order, are usually as follows:

  • spouse
  • children
  • parents
  • siblings
  • grandparents
  • distant family

Who are the Devisees?

The person(s) or entity named in the will to receive certain assets.

What is “Administering the Estate”?

Administering the estate often involves changing the titles on the assets owned by the decedent, or liquidating the assets and distributing the funds to certain people. It also requires the Personal Representative to use the estate’s funds to pay bills and debts the decedent left behind.

What is the Probate Process?

  1. File a petition with the probate court and provide Notice to any heirs, beneficiaries, and/or devisees. 
  2. Provide notice to creditors.
  3. Pay all estate expenses, debts, taxes, etc.
  4. Distribute the remaining assets as per the will or per state law if there was no will.

Is Probate Expensive ?

Probate can be an expensive lengthy process, lasting anywhere from six months to a few years, depending on the complexity of the estate and the court it is filed in.

What Assets are Subject to Probate?

Not all of a decedent’s property may be subject to probate. Assets that were owned jointly with right of survivorship will pass directly to the surviving owner. Also, assets that have beneficiary designations, like life insurance policies, will pass directly to the beneficiary. 

Is Probate Public?

Probate is not a private process. The act of filing documents with the court makes the case and all associated filings public record. The thought of “airing dirty laundry” might be daunting to some families. 

Can Probate Be Avoided?

The most common tool used to avoid probate is a revocable living trust. A revocable living trust is an entity created during a person’s lifetime to hold assets, for the purpose of distributing them after their death, no court involvement necessary.

To learn more about the probate process, or how to avoid it, contact a probate Lawyer in Phoenix, AZ, like Kamper & Estrada, PLLC, for a free consultation with our Estate Planning and Probate Attorney.