If a loved one dies and left behind a will, their estate will likely have to go through probate. Probate is the legal process of authenticating a will and distributing the deceased person's assets. The process can be cumbersome, so it's essential to understand how it works. Here are six things you should know about probate.

What Is Probate? 

The probate process begins after someone passes away. The court will hire an executor (or personal representative) to administer the estate. It involves collecting assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries. The legal process can take months or even years to complete, depending on the complexity of the estate. 

How Does Probate Work? 

Once the executor is appointed, they will begin inventorying and evaluating the deceased person's assets. It includes real estate, vehicles, jewelry, and bank accounts. Once all the assets have been accounted for, the executor will pay any outstanding debts and taxes from the estate. The remaining assets will be distributed to beneficiaries according to the terms of the will. 

The best probate attorney in Marietta, GA, will help you understand the process and what to expect.

Who Needs to Go through Probate? 

Not every estate needs to go through probate. It depends on several factors, such as the type of assets involved and whether there is a surviving spouse. For example, if all of the deceased person's assets are held jointly with a spouse, those assets will generally pass to the surviving spouse without going through probate. Similarly, probate may not be required if the estate's total value is below a certain threshold (which varies by state). 

What Are the drawbacks of Probate? 

One of the most significant drawbacks of probate is that it can be time-consuming and expensive. Executors are typically entitled to compensation for their time and efforts, which can add up quickly. In addition, probate proceedings are public, so details about the deceased person's finances may become public records. Finally, beneficiaries may have to wait months or even years to receive their inheritance if the estate is complex or contested. 

Can You Avoid Probate? 

There are a few ways to avoid probate altogether. One option is to create a living trust and fund it with your property while you're still alive. Another option is to name a beneficiary on your accounts (e.g., 401(k), IRA, life insurance policy). If you do this, your designated beneficiary will receive those assets automatically after your death without going through probate court. 

What Happens if There Is No Will? 

If there is no will, the deceased person's assets will be distributed according to state law (known as "intestate succession"). It usually means that assets will go to surviving family members in order of relationship (e.g., spouse, children). If there are no surviving family members, the assets may escheat (i.e., revert) to the state. 

Conclusion

While probate can be time-consuming and expensive, it is often necessary to distribute a deceased person's assets correctly according to their wishes—as expressed in their will—and in compliance with state law. An experienced probate attorney in Marietta can help guide you through the process and answer any questions you may have.